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92 R959 60-021^8 

Russell 03.50 

Portraits from memory, and other 


92 R959 60-021^8 

Russell 03.50 

Portraits from memory, and cftfcer 

essays . 














and Other Essays 






Mind and Matter 1 45 

The Cult of "Common Usage 1 66 

Knowledge and Wisdom i 7 3 

A Philosophy for Our Time 1 78 

A Plea for Clear Thinking^ 1 85 

History As m Art 190 

How I Write no 

The Road to Happiness ^ * 5 

Symptoms of Orwell's 1 984 2 2 1 

Why 1 Am Not a Communist 229 

Marts Peril 233 

Steps toward Peace 239 

An Autobiographical Epitome 

FOR those who are too young to remember the world be- 
fore 1914, it must be difficult to imagine the contrast 
for a man of my age between childhood memories and 
the world of the present day. I try, though with indifferent 
success, to accustom myself to a world of crumbling empires, 
Communism, atom bombs, Asian self-assertion, and aristo- 
cratic downfall. In this strange insecure world where no one 
knows whether he will be alive tomorrow, and where ancient 
states vanish like morning mists, it is not easy for those who, 
in youth, were accustomed to ancient solidities to believe that 
what they are now experiencing is a reality and not a tran- 
sient nightmare. Very little remains of institutions and ways 
of life that when I was a child appeared as indestructible as 
^granite. I grew up in an atmosphere impregnated with tradi- 
tion. My parents died before I can remember, and I was 
brought up by my grandparents. My grandfather was born 
in the early days of the French Revolution and was in Parlia- 
ment while Napoleon was still Emperor. As a Whig who fol- 
lowed Fox, he thought the English hostility to the French 
Revolution and Napoleon excessive, and he visited the ex- 
iled Emperor in Elba. It was he who, in 1832, introduced the 
Reform Bill which started England on the road toward de- 
mocracy. He was Prime Minister during the Mexican War 
and during the revolutions of 1848. In common with the 


whole Russell family, he inherited the peculiar brand of aris- 
tocratic liberalism which characterized the Revolution of 
1688 in which his ancestor played an important part. I was 
taught a kind of theoretic republicanism which was pre- 
pared to tolerate a monarch so long as he recognized that he 
was an employee of the people and subject to dismissal if he 
proved unsatisfactory. My grandfather, who was no respecter 
of persons, used to explain this point of view to Queen Vic- 
toria, and she was not altogether sympathetic. She did, how- 
ever, give him the house in Richmond Park in which I spent 
all rny youth. Wjmbibed certain political principles and ex- 
pectations, andp^vfe^on the whole retained the former in 
spite of being compelled to reject the latter. fThere was to be 
ordered progress throughout the world, no revolutions, a 
gradual cessation of war, and an extension of parliamentary 
government to all those unfortunate regions which did not 
yet enjoy it. My grandmother used to laugh about a conver- 
sation she had had with the Russian Ambassador. She said to 
him, "Perhaps some day you will have a parliament in Rus- 
sia," and he replied, "God forbid, my dear Lady John." The 
Russian Ambassador of today might give the same answer if 
he changed the first word.|The hopes of that period seem now 
a little absurd. There was to be democracy, but it was as- 
sumed that the people would always be ready to follow the 
advice of wise and experienced aristocrats. There was to be 
a disappearance of imperialism, but the subject races in Asia 
and Africa, whom the British would voluntarily cease to gov- 
ern, would have learned the advantage of a bicameral legisla- 
ture composed of Whigs and Tories in about equal numbers, 
and would reproduce in torrid zones the parliamentary duels 
of Disraeli and Gladstone which were at their most brilliant 

I4 HL. % 

at the time whenXnimbibed'H^dominant political prejudices. 
The idea of any insecurity to British power never entered 


anybody's head. Britannia ruled the waves, and that was that. 
There was, it is true, Bismarck, whom I was taught to con- 
sider a rascal; but it was thought that the civilizing influences 
of Goethe and Schiller would prevent the Germans from be- 
ing permanently led into wrong paths by this uncivilized 
farmer. It was true also that there had been violence in the 
not-so-distant past. The Fren9h in their Revolution had com- 
mitted excesses which one must deplore, while urging, at the 
same time, that reactionaries had grossly exaggerated them 
and that they would not have occurred at all but for the foolish 
hostility of the rest of Europe to progressive opinions in 
France. It might perhaps be admitted also that Cromwell had 
gone too far in cutting off the king's head but, broadly speak- 
ing, anything done against kings was to be applauded un- 
less, indeed, it were done by priests, like Becket, in which 
case one sided with the king.fThe atmosphere in the house 
was one of puritan piety and austerity. There were family 
prayers at eight o'clock every morning. Although there were 
eight servants, food was always of Spartan simplicity, and 
even what there was, if it was at all nice, was considered too 
good for children. For instance, if there was apple tart and 
rice pudding, I was only allowed the rice pudding. Cold baths 
all the year round were insisted upon, and I had to practice 
the piano from seven-thirty to eight every morning although 
the fires were not yet lit. My grandmother never allowed 
herself to sit in an armchair until the evening. Alcohol and 
tobacco were viewed with disfavor although stern conven- 
tion compelled them to serve a little wine to guests. Only 
virtue was prized, virtue at the expense of intellect, health, 
happiness, and every mundane good. .. 

I rebelled against this atmosphere first in the name of in- 
tellect. I was a solitary, shy, priggish youth. I had no experi- 
ence of the social pleasures of boyhood and did not miss them. 


But I Hkcd mathematics, and mathematics was suspect because 
it has no ethical content. I came also to disagree with the 
theological opinions of my family, and as I grew up I be- 
came increasingly interested in philosophy, of which they 
profoundly disapproved. Every time the subject came up they 
repeated with unfailing- regularity, "What is mind? No mat- 
ter. What is matter? Never mind." After some fifty or sixty 
repetitions, this remark ceased to amuse me. 

When at the age of eighteen I went up to Cambridge, I 
found myself suddenly and almost bewilderingly among peo- 
ple who spoke the sort of language that was natural to me. 
If I said anything that I really thought they neither stared at 
me as if I were a lunatic nor denounced me as if I were a 
criminal I had been compelled to live in a morbid atmosphere 
where an unwholesome kind of morality was encouraged to 
such an extent as to paralyze intelligence. And to find myself 
in a world where intelligence was valued and clear thinking 
was thought to be a good thing caused me an intoxicating 
delight. It is sometimes said that those who have had an uncon- 
ventional education will find a difficulty in adjusting them- 
selves to the world. I had no such experience* The environ- 
ment in which I found myself at Cambridge fitted me like a 
glove. In the course of my first term I made lifelong friends 
and I never again had to endure the almost unbearable loneli- 
ness of my adolescent years. My first three years at Cam- 
bridge were given to mathematics and my fourth year to phi- 
losophy. I came in time to think ill of the philosophy that I 
had been taught, but the learning of it was a delight and it 
opened to me new and fascinating problems which I hoped to 
be able to solve. I was especially attracted to problems con- 
cerning the foundations of mathematics, I wished to believe 
that some knowledge is certain and I thought that the best 
hope of finding certain knowledge was in mathematics* At 


the same time it was obvious to me that the proofs of mathe- 
matical propositions which my teachers had offered me were 
fallacious. I hoped that better proofs were forthcoming. Sub- 
sequent study showed me that my hopes were partly justi- 
fied. But it took me nearly twenty years to find all the justi- 
fication that seemed possible and even that fell far short of my 
youthful hopes. 

When I had finished my student years at Cambridge, I had 
to decide whether to devote my life to philosophy or to poli- 
tics. Politics had been the habitual pursuit of my family since 
the sixteenth century, and to think of anything else was 
viewed as a kind of treachery to my ancestors. Everything 
was done to show that my path would be smooth if I chose 
politics. John Morley, who was Irish Secretary, offered me a 
post. Lord Dufferin, who was British Ambassador in Paris, 
gave me a job at our Embassy there. My family brought 
pressure to bear upon me in every way they could think of. 
For a time I hesitated, but in the end the lure of philosophy 
proved irresistible. This was my first experience of conflict, 
and I found it painful. I have since had so much conflict that 
many people have supposed that I must like it. I should, how- 
ever, have much preferred to live at peace with everybody. 
But over and over again profound convictions have forced 
me into disagreements, even where I least desired them. After 
I had decided on philosophy, however, everything went 
smoothly for a long time. I lived mainly in an academic at- 
mosphere where the pursuit of philosophy was not regarded 
as an eccentric folly. All went well until 1914. But when the 
First World War broke out, I thought it was a folly and a 
crime on the part of every one of the Powers involved on both 
sides. I hoped that England might remain neutral and, when 
this did not happen, I continued to protest. I found myself iso- 
lated from most of my former friends and, what I minded even 


more, estranged from the current of the national life. I had 
to fall back upon sources of strength that I hardly knew 
myself to possess. But something, that if I had been religious 
I should have called the Voice of God, compelled me to per- 
sist. Neither then nor later did I think all war wrong. It was 
that war, not all war, that I condemned. The Second World 
War I thought necessary, not because 1 had changed my opin- 
ions on war, but because the circumstances were different. In 
fact all that made the Second War necessary was an outcome 
of the First War. We owe to the First War and its aftermath 
Russian Communism, Italian Fascism and German Na/isrn, 
We owe to the First War the creation of a chaotic unstable 
world where there is every reason to fear that the Second 
World War was not the last, where there is the vast horror of 
Russian Communism to be combatted, where Germany, 
France and what used to be the Austro-Hungarian Empire 
have all fallen lower in the scale of civilization, where there 
is every prospect of chaos in Asia and Africa, where the 
prospect of vast and horrible carnage inspires daily and 
hourly terror. All these evils have sprung with the inevitabil- 
ity of Greek tragedy out of the First World War. Consider 
by way of contrast what would have happened if Britain had 
remained neutral in that war. The war would have been 
short. It would have ended in victory for Germany. Amer- 
ica would not have been dragged in. Britain would have re- 
mained strong and prosperous. Germany would not have 
been driven into Nazism; Russia, though it would have had a 
revolution, would in all likelihood have not had the Commu- 
nist Revolution, since it could not in a short war have been 
reduced to the condition of utter chaos which prevailed in 
1917, The Kaiser's Germany, although war propaganda on 
our side represented it as atrocious, was in fact only swash- 
buckling and a little absurd. I had lived in the Kaiser's Get- 


many and I knew that progressive forces in that country were 
very strong and had every prospect of ultimate success. There 
was more freedom in the Kaiser's Germany than there is now 
in any country outside Britain and Scandinavia. We were told 
at the time that it was a war for freedom, a war for democ- 
racy and a war against militarism. As a result of that war 
freedom has vastly diminished and militarism has vastly in- 
creased. As for democracy, its future is still in doubt. I can- 
not think that the world would now be in anything like the 
bad state in which it is if English neutrality in the First War 
had allowed a quick victory to Germany. On these grounds I 
have never thought that I was mistaken in the line that I took 
at that time. I also do not regret having attempted through- 
out the war years to persuade people that the Germans were 
less wicked than official propaganda represented them as be- 
ing, for a great deal of the subsequent evil resulted from the 
severity of the Treaty of Versailles and this severity would not 
have been possible but for the moral horror with which Ger- 
many was viewed. The Second World War was a totally dif- 
ferent matter. Very largely as a result of our follies, Nazi 
Germany had to be fought if human life was to remain tol- 
erable. If the Russians seek world dominion it is to be feared 
that war with them will be supposed equally necessary. But 
all this dreadful sequence is an outcome of the mistakes of 
1914 and would not have occurred if those mistakes had been 

The end of the First War was not the end of my isolation, 
but, on the contrary, the prelude to an even more complete 
isolation (except from close personal friends) which was due 
to my failure to applaud the new revolutionary government 
of Russia. When the Russian Revolution first broke out I 
welcomed it as did almost everybody else, including the Brit- 
ish Embassy in Petrograd (as it then was). It was difficult at 


a distance to follow the confused events of 1918 and 1919 
and I did not know what to think of the Bolsheviks. But in 
1920 I went to Russia, had long talks with Lenin and other 
prominent men, and saw as much as I could of what was 
going on. I came to the conclusion that everything that was 
being done and everything that was being intended was to- 
tally contrary to what any person of a liberal outlook would 
desire. I thought the regime already hateful and certain to 
become more so. I found the source of evil in a contempt 
for liberty and democracy which was a natural outcome of 
fanaticism. It was thought by radicals in those days that one 
ought to support the Russian Revolution whatever it might 
be doing, since it was opposed by reactionaries, and criticism 
of it played into their hands. I felt the force of this argument 
and was for some time in doubt as to what I ought to do. 
But in the end I decided in favor of what seemed to me to be 
the truth. I stated publicly that I thought the Bolshevik re- 
gime abominable, and I have never seen any reason to change 
this opinion. In this I differed from almost all the friends 
that I had acquired since 1914. Most people still hated me for 
having opposed the war, and the minority, who did not hate 
me on this ground, denounced me for not praising the Bol- 

My visit to Russia in 1920 was a turning point in my life. 
During the time that I was there I felt a gradually increasing 
horror which became an almost intolerable oppression* The 
country seemed to me one vast prison in which the jailers 
were cruel bigots. When I found my friends applauding these 
men as liberators and regarding the regime that they were 
creating as a paradise, I wondered in a bewildered manner 
whether it was my friends or I that were mad. But the habit 
of. following my own judgment rather than that of others 
had grown strong in me during the war years. And as a mat- 


ter of historical dynamics it seemed obvious that revolution- 
ary ardor must develop into imperialism as it had done in 
the French Revolution. When I finally decided to say what 
I thought of the Bolsheviks my former political friends, in- 
cluding very many who have since come to my opinion, de- 
nounced me as a lackey of the bourgeoisie. But reactionaries 
did not notice what I said and continued to describe me in 
print as a "lily-livered Bolshie swine." And so I succeeded in 
getting the worst of both worlds. 

All this would have been more painful than it was if I had 
not, just at that moment, had occasion to go to China where 
I spent a year in great happiness away from the European 
turmoil. Since that time, although I have had occasional con- 
flicts, they have been more external and less painful than those 
connected with the war and the Bolsheviks. 

After I returned from China in 1921 I became absorbed 
for a number of years in parenthood and attendant problems 
of education. I did not like conventional education but I 
thought what is called "progressive education" in most 
schools deficient on the purely scholastic side. It seemed to 
me, and still seems, that in a technically complex civilization 
such as ours a man cannot play an important part unless in 
youth he has had a very considerable dose of sheer instruc- 
tion. I could not find any school at that time that seemed to 
me satisfactory, so I tried starting a school of my own. But 
a school is an administrative enterprise and I found myself 
deficient in skill as an administrator. The school, therefore, 
was a failure. But fortunately about this time I found another 
school which had recently become excellent. I wrote two 
books on education and spent a lot of time thinking about it 
but, as anyone might have expected, I was better at talking 
than at doing. I am not a believer in complete freedom dur- 
ing childhood. I think children need a fixed routine, though 


there should he days when it is not carried out. I think also 
that, if a person when adult is to he able to fit into a society, 
he must learn while still young that he is not the center of 
the universe and that his wishes are often not the most im- 
portant factor in a situation. I think also that the encourage- 
ment of originality without technical skill, which is practiced 
in many progressive schools, is a mistake. There are some 
things that I like very much in progressive education, espe- 
cially freedom of speech, and freedom to explore the facts of 
life, and the absence of a silly kind of morality which is more 
shocked by the utterance of a swear word than by an unkind 
action. But I think that those who have rebelled against an 
unwise discipline have often gone too far in forgetting that 
some discipline is necessary. This applies more especially to 
the acquisition of knowledge. 

Age and experience have not had as much effect upon my 
opinions as no doubt they ought to have had, but I have come 
to realise that freedom is a principle to which there are very 
important limitations of which those in education arc in a 
certain sense typical What people will do in given circum- 
stances depends enormously upon their habits; and good 
habits are not acquired without discipline. Most of us go 
through life without stealing, but many centuries of police 
discipline have gone into producing this abstention which 
now seems natural. If children are taught nothing about man- 
ners they will snatch each others* food and the older children 
will get all the titbits. In international affairs it will not be 
by prolonging interstate anarchy that the world will be 
brought back to a tolerable condition, but by the rule of in- 
ternational law, which will never prevail unless backed by 
international force. In the economic sphere the old doctrine 
of taissez fairc is not now held by any practical men, although 
a few dreamers still hanker after it* As the world grows 


fuller, regulation becomes more necessary. No doubt this is 
regrettable. The world of the Odyssey is attractive. One sails 
from island to island and always finds a lovely lady ready to 
receive one. But nowadays immigration quotas interfere with 
this sort of life. It was all very well for Odysseus, who was 
only one, but if a hundred million Chinese had descended 
upon Calypso's island, life would have become rather diffi- 
cult. The broad rule is a simple one: that men should be free 
in what only concerns themselves, but that they should not 
be free when they are tempted to aggression against others. 
But although the broad rule is simple, the carrying out of it 
in detail is very complex, and so the problem of the proper 
limitations on human freedom remains. 

Although I have been much occupied with the world and 
the vast events that have taken place during my lifetime, I 
have always thought of myself as primarily an abstract phi- 
losopher. I have tried to extend the exact and demonstrative 
methods of mathematics and science into regions traditionally 
given over to vague speculation. I like precision. I like sharp 
outlines. I hate misty vagueness. For some reason which I do 
not profess to understand, this has caused large sections of 
the public to think of me as a cold person destitute of pas- 
sion. It seems to be supposed that whoever feels any passion 
must enjoy self-deception and choose to live in a fool's para- 
dise on the ground that no other sort of paradise is attainable. 
I cannot sympathize with this point of view. The more I am 
interested in anything, the more I wish to know the truth 
about it, however unpleasant the truth may be. When I first 
became interested in philosophy, I hoped that I should find 
in it some satisfaction for my thwarted desire for a religion. 
For a time, I found a sort of cold comfort in Plato's eternal 
world of ideas* But in the end I thought this was nonsense 
and I have found in philosophy no satisfaction whatever for 


the impulse toward religious belief* In this sense I have found 
philosophy disappointing, but as a clarifier I have found it 
quite the opposite. Many things which, when I was young, 
were matters of taste or conjecture have become exact and 
scientific. In this 1 rejoice and in so far as 1 have been able 
to contribute to the result I feel that my work in philosophy 
has been worth doing. 

But in such a world as we now have to live in, it grows 
increasingly difficult to concentrate on abstract matters, The 
everyday world presses in upon the philosopher and his ivory 
tower begins to crumble. The future of mankind more and 
more absorbs my thoughts. I grew up in the full flood of 
Victorian optimism, and although the easy cheerfulness of 
that time is no longer possible, something remains with me of 
the hopefulness that then was easy. It is now no longer easy. 
It demands a certain fortitude and a certain capacity to look 
beyond the moment to a more distant future. But I remain 
convinced, whatever dark times may lie before us, that man- 
kind will emerge, that the habit of mutual forbearance, which 
now seems lost, will be recovered, and that the reign of 
brutal violence will not last forever. Mankind has to learn 
some new lessons of which the necessity is due to increase of 
skill without increase of wisdom. Moral and intellectual re- 
quirements are inextricably intertwined. Evil passions make 
men incapable of seeing the truth, and false beliefs afford 
excuses for evil passions. If the world is to emerge, it requires 
both clear thinking and kindly feeling. It may be that neither 
will be learned except through utmost disaster, I hope this is 
not the case. I hope that something less painful can teach wis- 
dom, But by whatever arduous road, I am convinced that the 
new wisdom which the new world requires will be learned 
sooner or later, and that the best part of human history lies 
in the future, not in the past. 


Why I Took to Philosophy 

THE motives which have led men to become philoso- 
phers have been of various kinds. The most respect- 
able motive was the desire to understand the world. 
In early days, while philosophy and science were indistin- 
guishable, this motive predominated. Another motive which 
was a potent incentive in early times was the illusoriness of 
the senses. Such questions as: Where is the rainbow? Are 
things really what they seem to be in sunshine or in moon- 
light? In more modern forms of the same problem Are 
things really what they look like to the naked eye or what 
they look like through a microscope? Such puzzles, how- 
ever, very soon came to be supplemented by a larger prob- 
lem. When the Greeks began to be doubtful about the gods of 
Olympus, some of them sought in philosophy a substitute for 
traditional beliefs. Through the combination of these two 
motives there arose a twofold movement in philosophy: on 
the one hand, it was thought to show that much which passes 
for knowledge in everyday life is not real knowledge; and on 
the other hand, that there is a deeper philosophical truth 
which, according to most philosophers, is more consonant 
than our everyday beliefs with what we should wish the uni- 
verse to be. In almost all philosophy doubt has been the goad 



and certainty has been the goal. There has been doubt about 
the senses, doubt about science, and doubt about theology. 
In some philosophers one of these has been more prominent, 
in others another. Philosophers have also differed widely us to 
the answers they have suggested to these doubts and even as 
to whether any answers are possible* 

All the traditional motives combined to lead me to phi- 
losophy, but there were two that specially influenced me. 
The one which operated first and continued longest was the 
desire to find some knowledge that could be accepted as cer- 
tainly true. The other motive was the desire to find some 
satisfaction for religious impulses. 

I think the first thing that led me toward philosophy 
(though at that time the word "philosophy" was still un- 
known to me) occurred at the age of eleven. My childhood 
was mainly solitary as my only brother was seven years older 
than I was. No doubt as a result of much solitude I became 
rather solemn, with a great deal of time for thinking but not 
much knowledge for my thoughtfulncss to exercise itself 
upon. I had, though I was not yet aware of it, the pleasure 
in demonstrations which is typical of the mathematical mind. 
After I grew up I found others who felt as I did on this 
matter. My friend G. H. Hardy, who was professor of pure 
mathematics, enjoyed this pleasure in a very high degree. He 
told me once that if he could find a proof that I was going 
to die in five minutes he would of course be sorry to lose 
me, but this sorrow would be quite outweighed by pleasure 
in the proof, I entirely sympathized with him and was not at 
all offended. Before 1 began the study of geometry somebody 
had told me that it proved things and this caused me to feel 
delight when my brother said he would teach it to me. Ge- 
ometry in those days was still "Euclid" My brother began 
at the beginning with the definitions. These I accepted read- 


ily enough. But he came next to the axioms. "These," he said, 
"can't be proved, but they have to be assumed before the 
rest can be proved." At these words my hopes crumbled. I 
had thought it would be wonderful to find something that 
one could prove, and then it turned out that this could only 
be done by means of assumptions of which there was no 
proof. I looked at my brother with a sort of indignation and 
said: "But why should I admit these things if they can't be 
proved?" He replied, "Well, if you won't, we can't go on." 
I thought it might be worth while to learn the rest of the 
story, so I agreed to admit the axioms for the time being. 
But I remained full of doubt and perplexity as regards a re- 
gion in which I had hoped to find indisputable clarity. In 
spite of these doubts, which at most times I forgot, and which 
I usually supposed capable of some answer not yet known 
to me, I found great delight in mathematics much more de- 
light, in fact, than in any other study. I liked to think of the 
applications of mathematics to the physical world, and I 
hoped that in time there would be a mathematics of human 
behavior as precise as the mathematics of machines. I hoped 
this because I liked demonstrations, and at most times this 
motive outweighed the desire, which I also felt, to believe 
in free will Nevertheless I never quite overcame my funda- 
mental doubts as to the validity of mathematics. 

When I began to learn higher mathematics, fresh difficulties 
assailed me. My teachers offered me proofs which I felt to be 
fallacious and which, as I learned later, had been recognized 
as fallacious. I did not know then, or for some time after I 
had left Cambridge, that better proofs had been found by 
German mathematicians. I therefore remained in a receptive 
mood for the heroic measures of Kant's philosophy. This sug- 
gested a large new survey from which such difficulties as had 
troubled me looked niggling and unimportant. All this I came 


later on to think wholly fallacious, but that was only after I 
had allowed myself to sink deep in the mire of metaphysical 
muddles. I was encouraged in my transition to philosophy by 
a certain disgust with mathematics, resulting from too much 
concentration and too much absorption in the sort of skill 
that is needed in examinations. The attempt to acquire ex- 
amination technique had led me to think of mathematics as 
consisting of artful dodges and ingenious devices and as alto- 
gether too much like a crossword pir/xle. When, at the end 
of my first three years at Cambridge, I emerged from my last 
mathematical examination I swore that 1 would never look at 
mathematics again and sold all my mathematical books. In 
this mood the survey of philosophy gave me all the delight of 
a new landscape on emerging from a valley, 

It had not been only in mathematics that I sought cer- 
tainty. Like Descartes (whose work was still unknown to 
me) I thought that my own existence was, to me, indubitable. 
Like him, I felt it possible to suppose that the outer world is 
nothing but a dream. But even if it be, it is a dream that is 
really dreamed, and the fact that I experience it remains un~ 
shakably certain. This line of thought occurred to me first 
when I was sixteen, and I was glad when I learned later that 
Descartes had made it the basis of his philosophy. 

At Cambridge my interest in philosophy received a stimu- 
lus from another motive. The skepticism which had led me 
to doubt even mathematics had also led me to question the 
fundamental dogmas of religion, but I ardently desired to find 
a way of preserving at least something that could be called 
religious belief. From the age of fifteen to the age of eighteen 
I spent a great deal of time and thought on religious belief, 
I examined fundamental dogmas one by one, hoping with all 
my heart to find some reason for accepting them. I wrote 
my thoughts in a notebook which I still possess. They were. 


of course, crude and youthful, but for the moment I saw no 
answer to the agnosticism which they suggested. At Cam- 
bridge I was made aware of whole systems of thought of 
which I had previously been ignorant and I abandoned for a 
time the ideas which I had worked out in solitude. At Cam- 
bridge I was introduced to the philosophy of Hegel who, in 
the course of nineteen abstruse volumes, professed to have 
proved something which would do quite well as an emended 
and sophisticated version of traditional beliefs. Hegel thought 
of the universe as a closely knit unity. His universe was like 
a jelly in the fact that, if you touched any one part of it, the 
whole quivered; but it was unlike a jelly in the fact that it 
could not really be cut up into parts. The appearance of con- 
sisting of parts, according to him, was a delusion. The only 
reality was the Absolute, which was his name for God. In 
this philosophy I found comfort for a time. As presented to 
me by its adherents, especially McTaggart, who was then an 
intimate friend of mine, Hegel's philosophy had seemed both 
charming and demonstrable. McTaggart was a philosopher 
some six years senior to me and throughout his life an ardent 
disciple of Hegel. He influenced his contemporaries very con- 
siderably, and I for a time fell under his sway. There was a 
curious pleasure in making oneself believe that time and space 
are unreal, that matter is an illusion, and that the world really 
consists of nothing but mind. In a rash moment, however, I 
turned from the disciples to the Master and found in Hegel 
himself a farrago of confusions and what seemed to me little 
better than puns. I therefore abandoned his philosophy. 

For a time I found satisfaction in a doctrine derived, with 
modification, from Plato. According to Plato's doctrine, 
which I accepted only in a watered-down form, there is an 
unchanging timeless world of ideas of which the world pre- 
sented to our senses is an imperfect copy. Mathematics, ac- 


cording to this doctrine, deals with the world of ideas and 
has in consequence an exactness and perfection which is ab- 
sent front the everyday world. This kind of mathematical 
mysticism, which Plato derived from Pythagoras, appealed 
to me. But in the end I found myself obliged to abandon this 
doctrine also, and 1 have never since found religious satisfac- 
tion in any philosophical doctrine that I could accept. 


Some Philosophical Contacts 

WHEN I was very young I indulged, like other 
young people, in daydreams, but I was more for- 
tunate than most in that some of them came true. 
One of my daydreams was of receiving flattering letters from 
learned foreigners who knew me only through my work. 
The first such letter that I actually received was something 
of a landmark. It was from the French philosopher Louis 
Couturat. He had written a big book on the mathematical 
infinite which I had reviewed with moderate praise. He wrote 
to tell me that when my book on the foundations of geom- 
etry was published he was given it to review and set to work 
"armed with a dictionary," for he knew hardly any English. 
The rest of his letter consisted of the sort of praise that I 
had dreamed of. I made friends with him and visited him first 
at Caen and then in Paris. Independently of each other, we 
both published books on Leibniz, I in 1900 and he in 1901. 
My book had suggested a quite new interpretation of Leib- 
niz* philosophy which I based upon a rather small number 
of texts. I regarded these texts as important because they made 
Leibniz' system much more profound and coherent than 
those upon which the traditional views of that system were 
based. Couturat, without knowing of my work, went to 



Hanover, where the Leibniz manuscripts were kept, and 
found innumerable unpublished papers which established the 
correctness of an interpretation closely similar to mine and 
no longer a matter of conjecture. But after this our paths 
diverged. He devoted himself to advocating an international 
language. Unfortunately, international languages are even 
more numerous than national ones. He did not like Esperanto, 
which was the general favorite, but preferred Ido. I learned 
from him that Esperantists (so at least he assured me) were 
wicked beyond all previous depths of human depravity, but 
I never examined his evidence. He said that Esperanto had 
the advantage of allowing the word Rsperantist for which 
Ido provided no analogue, "But yes/' I said, "there is the word 
Idiot" He, however, refused to have the advocates of Ido 
called idiots. He was killed by a lorry during the mobilisa- 
tion of 1914. 

My first serious contact with the German learned world 
consisted in the reading of Kant, whom, while a student, I 
viewed with awed respect. My teachers told me to feel at 
least equal respect for Hegel, and 1 accepted their judgment 
until I read him. But when I read him I found his remarks in 
the philosophy of mathematics (which was the part of phi- 
losophy that most interested me) both ignorant and stupid, 
This led me to reject his philosophy, and at the same time, 
for somewhat different reasons, I rejected the philosophy of 
Kant. But while I was abandoning the traditional German 
philosophy I was becoming aware of the work of German 
mathematicians on the principles of mathematics, which was 
at that time very much better than any work on the subject 
elsewhere, I read avidly the work of Weicrstrass and Dedc- 
kind which swept away great quantities of metaphysical lum- 
ber that had obstructed the foundations of mathematics ever 
since the time of Leibniz. More important than either of 


these, both intrinsically and in his influence on my work, was 
Georg Cantor. He developed the theory of infinite numbers 
in epoch-making work which showed amazing genius. The 
work was very difficult and for a long time I did not fully 
understand it. I copied it, almost word for word, into a note- 
book because I found that this slow mode of progression 
made it more intelligible. While I was doing so I thought his 
work fallacious, but nevertheless persisted. When I had fin- 
ished, I discovered that the fallacies had been mine and not 
his. He was a very eccentric man and, when he was not do- 
ing epoch-making work in mathematics, he was writing 
books to prove that Bacon wrote Shakespeare. He sent me 
one of these books with an inscription on the cover saying, 
"I see your motto is Kant or Cantor." Kant was his bugbear. 
In a letter to me he described him as, "Yonder sophistical 
Philistine who knew so little mathematics." He was a very 
pugnacious man and, when he was in the middle of a great 
controversy with the French mathematician Henri Poincare, 
he wrote to me, "I shall not be the succumbent!" which in- 
deed proved to be the case. To my lasting regret, I never met 
him. Just at a moment when I was to have met him, his son 
fell ill and he had to return to Germany. 

The influence of these men on my work belonged to the 
last years of the nineteenth century. With the beginning of 
the twentieth, I became aware of a man for whom I had and 
have the very highest respect although at that time he was 
practically unknown. This man is Frege. It is difficult to ac- 
count for the fact that his work did not receive recognition. 
Dedekind had been justly acclaimed, but Frege on the very 
same topics was much more profound. My relations with him 
were curious. They ought to have begun when my teacher 
in philosophy, James Ward, gave me Frcge's little book 
Begriffsschrift saying that he had not read the book and did 


not know whether it had any value. To my shame I have to 
confess that I did not read it either, until I had independently 
worked out a great deal of what it contained. The book was 
published in 1879 and I read it in 1901, I rather suspect that 
I was its first reader. What first attracted me to Frege was a 
review of a later book of his by Peano accusing him of un- 
necessary subtlety. As Peano was the most subtle logician I 
had at that time come across, I felt that Frege must be re- 
markable, I acquired the first volume of his book on arith- 
metic (the second volume was not yet published). I read the 
introduction with passionate admiration, but I was repelled 
by the crabbed symbolism which he had invented and it was 
only after I had done the same work for myself that I was 
able to understand what he had written in the main text. Me 
was the first to expound the view which was and is mine, 
that mathematics is a prolongation of logic, and he was the 
first to give a definition of numbers in logical terms* He did 
this in 1884 but nobody noticed that he had done it, 

Frege thought, as I thought for a few months at the turn 
of the century, that the reduction of mathematics to logic 
had been definitively completed. But in June 1901 I came 
across a contradiction which proved that something was 
amiss, I wrote to Frege about it and he behaved with a noble 
candor which cannot be too highly praised. The second vol- 
ume of his arithmetic had been passed through the press but 
not yet published. He added an appendix saying that in view 
of the contradiction that I had brought to his notice "die 
Arithmetik ist ms Schwmkcn geraten" I understand that in 
later years, like the Pythagoreans when confronted with ir- 
rationals, he took refuge in geometrical treatment of arithme- 
tic. In this I cannot follow him, but it is interesting to observe 
the repetition of ancient history in a new context. To my 
lasting regret, 1 never met Frege, but I am glad to have done 


all that lay in my power to win him the the recognition 
which he deserved. 

An even more important philosophical contact was with 
the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, who began as 
my pupil and ended as my supplanter at both Oxford and 
Cambridge. He had intended to become an engineer and had 
gone to Manchester for that purpose. The training for an 
engineer required mathematics, and he was thus led to inter- 
est in the foundations of mathematics. He inquired at Man- 
chester whether there was such a subject and whether any- 
body worked at it. They told him about me, and so he came 
to Cambridge. He was queer, and his notions seemed to me 
odd, so that for a whole term I could not make up my mind 
whether he was a man of genius or merely an eccentric. At 
the end of his first term at Cambridge he came to me and 
said: "Will you please tell me whether I am a complete idiot 
or not?" I replied, "My dear fellow, I don't know. Why are 
you asking me?" He said, "Because, if I am a complete idiot, 
I shall become an aeronaut; but, if not, I shall become a phi- 
losopher." I told him to write me something during the vaca- 
tion on some philosophical subject and I would then tell him 
whether he was complete idiot or not. At the beginning of 
the following term he brought me the fulfillment of this sug- 
gestion. After reading only one sentence, I said to him: "No, 
you must not become an aeronaut." And he didn't. He was 
not, however, altogether easy to deal with. He used to come 
to my rooms at midnight, and for hours he would walk back- 
ward and forward like a caged tiger. On arrival, he would 
announce that when he left my rooms he would commit sui- 
cide. So, in spite of getting sleepy, I did not like to turn him 
out. On one such evening, after an hour or two of dead si- 
lence, I said to him, "Wittgenstein, are you thinking about 
logic or about your sins?" "Both," he said, and then reverted 


to silence. However, we did not meet only at night. I used 
to take him long walks in the country round Cambridge. On 
one occasion I induced him to trespass with me in Madingley 
Wood where, to my surprise, he climbed a tree. When he had 
got a long way up a gamekeeper with a gun turned up and 
protested to me about the trespass. I called up to Wittgen- 
stein and said the man had promised not to shoot if Wittgen- 
stein got down within a minute. He believed me, and did so. 
In the First War he fought in the Austrian army and was 
taken prisoner by the Italians two days after the armistice. I 
had a letter from him from Monte Cassino, where he was in- 
terned, saying that fortunately he had had his manuscript 
with him when he was taken prisoner. This manuscript, 
which was published and became famous, had been written 
while he was at the front, lie inherited a great fortune from 
his father, but he gave it away on the ground that money is 
only a nuisance to a philosopher. In order to earn his living, 
he became a village schoolmaster at a little place called Trat- 
tcnbach, from which he wrote me an unhappy letter saying, 
"The men of Trattcnbach are wicked/ 1 I replied, "All men 
are wicked." He rejoined, "True, but the men of Trattcnbach 
are more wicked than the men of any other place." I retorted 
that my logical sense rebelled against such a statement; and 
there the matter rested until residence elsewhere enlarged his 
view as ro the prevalence of sin. In his later years he was pro- 
fessor of philosophy at Cambridge, and most philosophers 
both there and at Oxford became his disciples, I myself was 
very much influenced by his earlier doctrines, but in later 
years our views increasingly diverged. I saw very little of 
him in his later years, but at the time when I knew him well 
he was immensely impressive as he had fire and penetration 
and intellectual purity to a quite extraordinary degree, 
A man who impressed me, not so much by his ability as 


by his resolute absorption in philosophy even under the most 
arduous circumstances, was the only Yugoslav philosopher of 
our time, whose name was Branislav Petronievic. I met him 
only once, in the year 1917. The only language we both knew 
was German and so we had to use it, although it caused peo- 
ple in the street to look at us with suspicion. The Serbs had 
recently carried out their heroic mass retreat before the Ger- 
man invaders, and I was anxious to get a firsthand account of 
this retreat from him, but he only wanted to expound his doc- 
trine that the number of points in space is finite and can be 
estimated by considerations derived from the theory of num- 
bers. The consequence of this difference in our interests was 
a somewhat curious conversation. I said, "Were you in the 
great retreat?" and he replied, "Yes, but you see the way to 
calculate the number of points in space is ..." I said, "Were 
you on foot?" and he said, "Yes, you see the number must be 
a prime." I said, "Did you not try to get a horse?" and he 
said, "I started on a horse, but I fell off, and it should not be 
difficult to find out what prime." In spite of all my efforts, I 
could get nothing further from him about anything so trivial 
as the Great War. I admired his capacity for intellectual de- 
tachment from the accidents of his corporeal existence, in 
which I felt that few ancient Stoics could have rivaled him. 
After the First War he was employed by the Yugoslav Gov- 
ernment to bring out a magnificent edition of the eighteenth- 
century Yugoslav philosopher Boscovic, but what happened 
to him after that I do not know. 

These are only a few of the men who have influenced me. 
I can think of two who have influenced me even more. They 
are the Italian Peano, and my friend G. E. Moore. 


Experiences of a Pacifist in the 
First World War 

MY LIFE has been sharply divided into two periods, 
one before and one after the outbreak of the First 
World War,, which shook me out of many preju- 
dices and made me think afresh on a number of fundamen- 
tal questions. 

In common with other people I had observed with dismay 
the increasing danger of war. I disliked the policy of the En- 
tente, which I first heard advocated in 1902 by Sir Edward 
Grey at a small discussion club of which 1 was a member. 
The policy had not then been adopted and Sir Edward Grey 
was not then in the Government, but he knew the Govern- 
ment's intentions and agreed with them, 1 protested vehe- 
mently. I did not like being aligned with C/.arist Russia, and 
I saw no insurmountable obstacle to a modus vivcfidi with 
the Kaiser's Germany. I foresaw that a great xvar would 
mark the end of an epoch and drastically lower the general 
level of civilisation. On these grounds I should have wished 
England to remain neutral Subsequent history has confirmed 
me in this opinion. 

During the hot days at the end of July, I was at Cambridge, 



discussing the situation with all and sundry, I found it impos- 
sible to believe that Europe would be so mad as to plunge 
into war, but I was pursuaded that, if there was war, Eng- 
land would be involved. I collected signatures of a large num- 
ber of professors and Fellows to a statement in favor of neu- 
trality which appeared in the Manchester Guardian. The day 
war was declared, almost all of them changed their minds. 
Looking back, it seems extraordinary that one did not realize 
more clearly what was coming. 

I spent the evening of August 4 walking round the streets, 
especially in the neighborhood of Trafalgar Square, noticing 
cheering crowds, and making myself sensitive to the emo- 
tions of passers-by. During this and the following days I dis- 
covered to my amazement that average men and women 
ware delighted at the prospect of war. I had fondly imag- 
ined, what most Pacifists contended, that wars were forced 
upon a reluctant population by despotic and Machiavellian 

I was tortured by patriotism. The successes of the Ger- 
mans before the Battle of the Marne were horrible to me. I 
desired the defeat of Germany as ardently as any retired 
colonel. Love of England is very nearly the strongest emo- 
tion I possess, and in appearing to set it aside at such a mo- 
ment, I was making a very difficult renunciation. Neverthe- 
less, I never had a moment's doubt as to what I must do. I 
have at times been paralyzed by skepticism, at times I have 
been cynical, at other times indifferent, but when the war 
came I felt as if I heard the voice of God. I knew that it was 
my business to protest, however futile protest might be. My 
whole nature was involved. As a lover of truth, the national 
propaganda of all the belligerent nations sickened me. As a 
lover of civilization, the return to barbarism appalled me. As 
a man of thwarted parental feeling, the massacre of the 


young wrung my heart. I hardly supposed that much good 
would come of opposing the war, but I felt that for the honor 
of human nature those who were not swept off their feet 
should show that they stood firm. After seeing troop trains 
departing from Waterloo, I used to have strange visions of 
London as a place of unreality. I used in imagination to see 
the bridges collapse and sink, and the whole great city vanish 
like a morning mist. Irs inhabitants began to seem like halluci- 
nations, and I would wonder whether the world in which I 
thought I had lived was a mere product of my own febrile 
nightmares. Such moods, however, were brief, and were put 
an end to by the need of work. 

I addressed many Pacifist meetings, usually without inci- 
dent, but there was one, in support of the Kerensky revolu- 
tion, which was more violent. It was at the Brotherhood 
Church in Southgatc Road. Patriotic newspapers distributed 
leaflets in all the neighboring public houses (the district is a 
very poor one) saying that we were in communication with 
the Germans and signaled to their airplanes as to where to 
drop bombs* This made us somewhat unpopular in the neigh- 
borhood, and a mob presently besieged the church. Most of 
us believed that resistance \vould be either wicked or unwise, 
since some of us were complete nonresisters, and others re- 
alized that we were too few to resist the whole surrounding 
slum population. A few people, among them Francis Mey~ 
nell, attempted resistance, and I remember his returning from 
the door with his face streaming with blood. The mob burst 
in led by a few officers; all except the officers were more or 
less drunk. The fiercest were viragos who used wooden 
boards full of rusty nails, An attempt was made by the offi- 
cers to induce the women among us to retire first so that they 
might deal as they thought fit with the Pacifist men, whom 


they supposed to be all cowards. Mrs. Snowden behaved on 
this occasion in a very admirable manner. She refused point- 
blank to leave the hall unless the men were allowed to leave 
at the same time. The other women present agreed with her. 
This rather upset the officers in charge of the roughs, as they 
did not particularly wish to assault women. But by this time 
the mob had its blood up, and pandemonium broke loose. 
Everybody had to escape as best they could while the police 
looked on calmly. Two of the drunken viragos began to at- 
tack me with their boards full of nails. While I was wonder- 
ing how one defended oneself against this type of attack, one 
of the ladies among us went up to the police and suggested 
that they should defend me, The police, however, merely 
shrugged their shoulders. "But he is an eminent philosopher," 
said the lady, and the police still shrugged. "But he is famous 
all over the world as a man of learning," she continued. The 
police remained unmoved. "But he is the brother of an earl," 
she finally cried. At this, the police rushed to my assistance. 
They were, however, too late to be of any service, and I owe 
my life to a young woman whom I did not know, who inter- 
posed herself between me and the viragos long enough for 
me to make my escape. She, I am happy to say, owing to the 
police, was not attacked. But quite a number of people, in- 
cluding several women, had their clothes torn off their backs 
as they left the building. 

The clergyman to whom the Brotherhood Church be- 
longed was a pacifist of remarkable courage. In spite of this 
experience, he invited me on a subsequent occasion to give 
an address in his church. On this occasion, however, the mob 
set fire to the pulpit and the address was not delivered. These 
were the only occasions on which I came across personal vio- 
lence; all my other meetings were undisturbed. But such is 


the power of Press propaganda that my non-pacifist friends 
came to me and said: u Why do you go on trying to address 
meetings when all of them are broken up by the mob?" 

For four and a half months in 1918 I was in prison for Pac- 
ifist propaganda; but, by the intervention of Arthur Balfour, 
I was placed in the first division, so that while in prison I was 
able to read and write as much as I liked, provided I did no 
pacifist propaganda. I found prison in many ways quite 
agreeable. I had no engagements, no difficult decisions to 
make, no fear of callers, no interruptions to my work, I read 
enormously; I wrote a book, Introduction to Mathematical 
Philosophy, and began the work for Analysis of Mind. I was 
rather interested in my fellow prisoners, who seemed to me 
in no way morally inferior to the rest of the population, 
though they were on the whole slightly below the usual level 
of intelligence, as was shown by their having been caught. 
For anybody not in the first division, especially for a person 
accustomed to reading and writing, prison is a severe and ter- 
rible punishment; but for me, thanks to Arthur Balfour, this 
was not so. I was much cheered on my arrival by the warder 
at the gate, who had to take particulars about me. He asked 
my religion, and I replied "agnostic/* He asked how to spell 
it, and remarked with a sigh; "Well, there are many religions, 
but I suppose they all worship the same God." This remark 
kept me cheerful for about a week, 

I came out of prison in September 1918, when it was al- 
ready clear that the war was ending. During the last weeks, 
in common with most other people, I based my hopes upon 
Wilson with his Fourteen Points and his League of Nations, 
The end of the war was so swift and dramatic that no one 
had time to adjust feelings to changed circumstances* 1 
learned on the morning of November n , a few hours in ad- 
vance of the general public, that the armistice was coming. 1 


went out into the street, and told a Belgian soldier, who said: 
"Tiens, c*est chic!" I went into a tobacconist's and told the 
lady who served me. "I am glad of that/' she said, "because 
now we shall be able to get rid of the interned Germans." At 
eleven o'clock, when the armistice was announced, I was in 
Tottenham Court Road. Within two minutes, everybody in 
all the shops and offices had come into the street. They com- 
mandeered the buses, and made them go where they liked. I 
saw a man and woman, complete strangers to each other, 
meet in the middle of the road and kiss as they passed. The 
crowd rejoiced and I also rejoiced. But I remained as solitary 
as before. 


From Logic to Politics 

THE First World War shook me out of my prejudices 
and made me think afresh on a number of fundamen- 
tal questions. It also provided me with a new kind of 
activity, for which I did not feel the stalcness that beset me 
whenever I tried to return to mathematical logic. I have 
therefore got into the habit of thinking of myself as a non- 
supernatural Faust for whom Mephistopheles was repre- 
sented by the First World War, 

Although I did not completely abandon logic and abstract 
philosophy, I became more and more absorbed in social ques- 
tions and especially in the causes of war and the possible ways 
of preventing it. I have found my work on such subjects 
much more difficult and much less successful than my earlier 
work on mathematical logic. It is difficult because its utility 
depends upon persuasion, and my previous training and ex- 
perience had not been any help toward persuasiveness. 

I had always been interested in social questions and had felt 
especially a horror of cruelty which made me very averse 
from war. There had been a time in the nineties when, under 
the influence of the Sidney Webbs, I had been more or less 
of an Imperialist and, at first, a supporter of the Boer War. 
But early in 1901 1 had an experience not unlike what reli- 


gious people call "conversion." I became suddenly and viv- 
idly aware of the loneliness in which most people live, and 
passionately desirous of finding ways of diminishing this 
tragic isolation. In the course of a few minutes I changed my 
mind about the Boer War, about harshness in education and 
in the criminal law, and about combativeness in private re- 
lations. I expressed the outcome of this experience in A Free 
Man's Worship. But I was absorbed, with my friend White- 
head, in the herculean task of writing Principia Mathematics, 
a book which occupied the best energies of us both for a pe- 
riod of ten years. The completion of this task left me with 
a new degree of mental freedom, and therefore ready intel- 
lectually as well as emotionally for the redirection of my 
thoughts that was brought about by the war. 

During the first days of the war, I was struck by the im- 
portance of the connection of politics and individual psychol- 
ogy. What masses of men agree to do is the result of passions 
which they feel in common, and these passions, as I was sud- 
denly compelled to realize, are not those that I found 
emphasized by most political theorists. I was at that time com- 
pletely ignorant of psychoanalysis, but observation of war- 
like crowds inspired me with thoughts having much affinity 
with those of psychoanalysts, as I afterward discovered. I 
saw that a peaceful world cannot be built on a basis of pop- 
ulations that enjoy fighting and killing. I thought I saw also 
what kinds of inward and outward defeat lead people to im- 
pulses of violence and cruelty. It seemed to me that no re- 
form could be stable unless it altered the feelings of individ- 
uals. The feelings of adult individuals are a product of many 
causes: experiences in infancy; education; economic strug- 
gles; and success or frustration in private relations. Men, on 
the average, will be kindly or hostile in their feelings toward 
each other in proportion as they feel their lives successful or 


unsuccessful. This of coune does not apply to everybody. 
There arc saints who can endure misfortune without becom- 
ing embittered, and there are fierce men whom no success 
will soften. But politics depends mainly upon the average 
mass of mankind; and the average mass will be fierce or 
kindly according to circumstances. Ever since those first days 
in August 1914, I have been firmly convinced that the only 
stable improvements in human affairs arc those which in- 
crease kindly feeling and diminish ferocity* 

When I visited Russia in 1920, I found there a philosophy 
very different from my own, a philosophy based upon hatred 
and force and despotic power. I had become isolated from 
conventional opinion by my views on the war, and I became 
isolated from left-wing opinion by my profound horror of 
what was being done in Russia. I remained in a political soli- 
tude until, bit by bit, left-wing opinion in the West became 
aware that the Russian Communists were not creating a 

In the Marxist philosophy, as interpreted in Moscow, I 
found, as I believe, two enormous errors, one of theory and 
one of feeling. The error of theory consisted in believing that 
the only undesirable form of power over other human beings 
is economic power, and that economic power is co-extensive 
with ownership. In this theory other forms of power mili- 
tary, political and propagandist are ignored, and it is for- 
gotten that the power of a large economic organization is 
concentrated in a small executive, and not diffused among all 
the nominal owners or shareholders. It was therefore sup- 
posed that exploitation and oppression must disappear if the 
State became the sole capitalist, and it was not realised that 
this would confer upon State officials all, and more than all, 
the powers of oppression formerly possessed by individual 
capitalists. The other error, which was concerned with feel- 


ing, consisted in supposing that a good state of affairs can be 
brought about by a movement of which the motive force is 
hate. Those who had been inspired mainly by hatred of capi- 
talists and landowners had acquired the habit of hating, and 
after achieving victory were impelled to look for new ob- 
jects of detestation. Hence came, by a natural psychological 
mechanism, the purges, the massacre of Kulaks, and the 
forced labor camps. I am persuaded that Lenin and his early 
colleagues were actuated by a wish to benefit mankind, but 
from errors in psychology and political theory they created 
a hell instead of a heaven. This was to me a profoundly im- 
portant object lesson in the necessity of right thinking and 
right feeling if any good result is to be achieved in the organ- 
ization of human relations. 

After my brief visit to Russia, I spent nearly a year in 
China, where I became more vividly aware than before of 
the vast problems concerned with Asia. China at that time 
was in a condition of anarchy; and, while Russia had too 
much government, China had too little. There was much that 
I found admirable in the Chinese tradition, but it was obvious 
that none of this could survive the onslaughts promoted by 
Western and Japanese rapacity. I fully expected to see China 
transformed into a modern industrial State as fierce and mili- 
taristic as the Powers that it was compelled to resist. I ex- 
pected that in due course there would be in the world only 
three first-class Powers America, Russia and China and 
that the new China would possess none of the merits of the 
old. These expectations are now being fulfilled. 

I have never been able to believe wholeheartedly in any 
simple nostrum by which all ills are to be cured. On the con- 
trary, I have come to think that one of the main causes of 
trouble in the world is dogmatic and fanatical belief in some 
doctrine for which there is no adequate evidence. National- 


ism, Fascism, Communism, and now anti-Communism have 
all produced their crop of bigoted zealots ready to work un- 
told horror in the interests of some narrow creed. All such 
fanaticisms have in a greater or less degree the defect which 
I found in the Moscow Marxists, namely, that their dynamic 
power is largely due to hate* 

Throughout my life 1 have longed to feel that oneness with 
large bodies of human beings that is experienced by the mem- 
bers of enthusiastic crowds. The longing has often been 
strong enough to lead me into self-deception. I have imagined 
myself in turn a Liberal, a Socialist, or a Pacifist, but I have 
never been any of these things in any profound sense. Always 
the skeptical intellect, when I have most wished it silent, has 
whispered doubts to me, has cut me off from the facile en- 
thusiasms of others, and has transported me into a desolate 
solitude. During the First War, while 1 worked with Quak- 
ers, nonrcsisters and Socialists, while I was willing to accept 
unpopularity and the inconvenience belonging to unpopular 
opinions, I would tell the Quakers that I thought many wars 
In history had been justified, and the Socialists that I dreaded 
the tyranny of the State, They would look askance at me, and 
while continuing to accept my help would feel that I was not 
one of them. Underlying all occupations and all pleasures, I 
felt from early youth the pain of solitude. This feeling of iso- 
lation, however, has grown much less since 1939, for during 
the last fifteen years I have been broadly in agreement with 
most of my compatriots on important issues. 

The world since 1914 has developed in ways very different 
from what I should have desired. Nationalism has increased, 
militarism has increased, liberty has diminished* Large parts 
of the world are less civilised than they were. Victory in two 
great wars has much diminished the good things for which 
we fought. All thinking and feeling is overshadowed by the 


dread of a new war worse than either of its predecessors. No 
limit can be seen to the possibilities of scientific destruction. 
But, in spite of these causes for apprehension, there are rea- 
sons, though less obvious ones, for cautious hope. It would 
now be technically possible to unify the world and abolish 
war altogether. It would also be technically possible to abol- 
ish poverty completely. These things would be done if men 
desired their own happiness more than the misery of their 
enemies. There were, in the past, physical obstacles to human 
well-being. The only obstacles now are in the souls of men. 
Hatred, folly and mistaken beliefs alone stand between us and 
the millennium. While they persist, they threaten us with un- 
precedented disaster. But perhaps the very magnitude of the 
peril may frighten the world into common sense. 


Beliefs: Discarded and Retained 

1 BEGAN to develop a philosophy of my own during the 
year 1898, when, with encouragement from my friend 
G. E. Moore, I threw over the doctrines of Hegel. If 
you watch a bus approaching you during a bad London fog, 
you see first a vague blur of extra darkness, and you only 
gradually become aware of it as a vehicle with parts and pas- 
sengers. According to Hegel, your first view as a vague blur 
is more correct than your later impression, which is inspired 
by the misleading impulses of the analytic intellect. This 
point of view was temperamentally unpleasing to me. Like 
the philosophers of ancient Greece, I prefer sharp outlines 
and definite separations such as the landscapes of Greece af- 
ford. When I first threw over Hegel, I was delighted to be 
able to believe in the bizarre multiplicity of the world. I 
thought to myself, "Hegel says there is only the One, but 
there really are twelve categories in Kant's philosophy." It 
may seem queer that this was the example of plurality that 
specially impressed me, but I am concerned to report the 
facts without distortion. 

For some years after throwing over Hegel I had an opti- 
mistic riot of opposite beliefs. I thought that whatever Hegel 
had denied must be true. He had maintained that there is no 



absolute truth. The nearest approach (so he maintained) to 
absolute truth is truth about the Absolute; but even that is 
not quite true, because it unduly separates subject and object. 
Consequently I, in rebellion, maintained that there are innu- 
merable absolute truths, more particularly in mathematics. 
Hegel had maintained that all separateness is illusory and that 
the universe is more like a pot of treacle than a heap of shot. 
I therefore said, "the universe is exactly like a heap of shot." 
Each separate shot, according to the creed I then held, had 
hard and precise boundaries and was as absolute as Hegel's 
Absolute. Hegel had professed to prove by logic that num- 
ber, space, time and matter are illusions, but I developed a 
new logic which enabled me to think that these things were 
as real as any mathematician could wish. I read a paper to a 
philosophical congress in Paris in 1900 in which I argued that 
there really are points and instants. Broadly speaking, I took 
the view that, whenever Hegel's proof that some thing does 
not exist is invalid, one may assume that the something in 
question does exist at any rate when that assumption is con- 
venient to the mathematician. Pythagoras and Plato had let 
their views of the universe be shaped by mathematics, and I 
followed them gaily. 

It was Whitehead who was the serpent in this paradise of 
Mediterranean clarity. He said to me once: "You think the 
world is what it looks like in fine weather at noon day; I 
think it is what it seems like in the early morning when one 
first wakes from deep sleep." I thought his remark horrid, but 
could not see how to prove that my bias was any better than 
his. At last he showed me how to apply the technique of 
mathematical logic to his vague and higgledy-piggledy world, 
and dress it up in Sunday clothes that the mathematician 
could view without being shocked. This technique which I 
learned from him delighted me, and I no longer demanded 


that the naked truth should be as good as the truth in its 
mathematical Sunday best. 

Although I still think that this is scientifically the right way 
to deal with the world, I have come to think that the mathe- 
matical and logical wrappings in which the naked truth is 
dressed go to deeper layers than I had supposed, and that 
things which I had thought to be skin are only well-made 
garments. Take, for instance, numbers: when you count, you 
count "things," but "things" have been invented by human 
beings for their own convenience. This is not obvious on the 
earth's surface because, owing to the low temperature, there 
is a certain degree of apparent stability. But it would be ob- 
vious if one could live on the sun where there is nothing but 
perpetually changing whirlwinds of gas. If you lived on the 
sun, you would never have formed the idea of "things," and 
you would never have thought of counting because there 
would be nothing to count. In such an environment, Hegel's 
philosophy would seem to be common sense, and what we 
consider common sense would appear as fantastic metaphysi- 
cal speculation. 

Such reflections have led me to think of mathematical ex- 
actness as a human dream, and not as an attribute of an ap- 
proximately knowable reality. I used to think that of course 
there is exact truth about anything, though it may be diffi- 
cult and perhaps impossible to ascertain it. Suppose, for ex- 
ample, that you have a rod which you know to be about a 
yard long. In the happy days when I retained my mathemati- 
cal faith, I should have said that your rod certainly is longer 
than a yard or shorter than a yard or exactly a yard long* 
Now I should admit that some rods can be known to be 
longer than a yard and some can be known 1 to be shorter than 
a yard, but none can be known to be exactly a yard, and, in- 
deed, the phrase "exactly a yard" has no definite meaning. 


Exactness, in fact, was a Hellenic myth which Plato located 
in heaven. He was right in thinking that it can find no home 
on earth. To my mathematical soul, which is attuned by na- 
ture to the visions of Pythagoras and Plato, this is a sorrow. 
I try to console myself with the knowledge that mathematics 
is still the necessary implement for the manipulation of na- 
ture. If you want to make a battleship or a bomb, if you want 
to develop a kind of wheat which will ripen farther north 
than any previous variety, it is to mathematics that you must 
turn. You can kill a man with a battle-ax or with a surgeon's 
knife; either is equally effective. Mathematics, which had 
seemed like a surgeon's knife, is really more like the battle-ax. 
But it is only in applications to the real world that mathemat- 
ics has the crudity of the battle-ax. Within its own sphere, 
it retains the neat exactness of the surgeon's knife. The world 
of mathematics and logic remains, in its own domain delight- 
ful; but it is the domain of imagination. Mathematics must 
live, with music and poetry, in the region of man-made 
beauty, not amid the dust and grime of the world. 

I said a moment ago that, in revolt against Hegel, I came 
to think of the world as more like a heap of shot than a pot 
of treacle. I still think that, on the whole, this view is right; 
but I gradually discovered that some things which I had taken 
to be solid shots in the heap did not deserve this dignity. In 
the first flush of my belief in separate atoms, I thought that 
every word that can be used significantly must signify some- 
thing, and I took this to mean that it must signify some thing. 
But the words that most interest logicians are difficult from 
this point of view. They are such words as "if" and "or" and 
"not." I tried to believe that in some logicians' limbo there 
are things that these words mean, and that perhaps virtuous 
logicians may meet them hereafter in a more logical cosmos. 
I felt fairly satisfied about "or" and "if" and "not," but I 


hesitated about such words as "nevertheless." My queer zoo 
contained some very odd monsters, such as the golden moun- 
tain and the present King of France monsters which, al- 
though they roamed my zoo at will, had the odd property 
of nonexistence. There are still a number of philosophers who 
believe this sort of thing, and it is their beliefs which have be- 
come the philosophical basis of Existentialism. But, for my 
part, I came to think that many words and phrases have no 
significance in isolation, but only contribute to the signifi- 
cance of whole sentences. I have therefore ceased to hope to 
meet "if" and "or" and "not" in heaven. I was able, in fact, 
by the roundabout road of a complicated technique, to return 
to views much nearer to those of common sense than my 
previous speculations. 

In spite of such changes, I have retained a very large part 
of the logical beliefs that I had fifty-five years ago. I am per- 
suaded that the world is made up of an immense number of 
bits, and that, so far as logic can show, each bit might be ex- 
actly as it is even if other bits did not exist. I reject wholly 
the Hegelian argument that all reality must be mental. I do 
not think one can argue as to what reality must be. When 
Whitehead persuaded me that the mathematician's space and 
time are polished man-made tools, he did not persuade me, 
and I believe did not himself think, that there is nothing in 
nature out of which these tools are made. I still think that 
what we can know about the world outside the thoughts and 
feelings of living beings, we can know only through physical 
science. I still think that what we can know of the world, we 
can know only by observation and not by complicated argu- 
ments as to what it must be. 

Throughout the time during which mathematical logic was 
my chief preoccupation, I was nevertheless keenly interested 
in social questions, and occupied myself with them in my 


spare time. I campaigned against tariff reform and in favor of 
votes for women. I stood for Parliament, and worked at 
General Elections. But it was not until 1914 that social ques- 
tions became my main preoccupation. 


Hopes: Realized and Disappointed 

DCJRING the eighty-two years of my life the world has 
changed as much as in any equal period of human 
history, if not more. It had, when I was young, an 
apparently stable pattern, which was not expected to alter 
fundamentally but only to undergo the sort of gradual evo- 
lution which had taken place in England. There were the 
Great Powers, which were European. (Most people forgot 
the United States, still recovering from the Civil War.) AH 
the Great Powers except France were monarchies, and 
France only ceased to be a monarchy two years before I was 
born. When I first became politically conscious, Disraeli was 
Prime Minister and the country was indulging in a honey- 
moon of Imperialism. It was at this time that Queen Victoria 
became Empress of India, and that the Prime Minister 
boasted of having secured peace with honor. The "peace" 
consisted of not going to war with Russia; the "honor" con- 
sisted of the island of Cyprus which is now causing us first- 
rate embarrassment. It was in these years that the word Jingo 
was coined. The far-flung might of Britain was displayed in 
the Afghan War, the Zulu War, and the First Boer War. All 
these I was taught to disapprove of, and I was indoctrinated 
with the creed of the Little Englander. But this creed was 



never wholly sincere. Even the littlest of Little Englanders 
rejoiced in England's prowess. The power and prestige of the 
aristocracy and the landed gentry were unimpaired. When 
my uncle married the daughter of a great industrial magnate, 
my grandmother was proud of her liberality in not objecting 
to his marrying into what she called "Trade." Outside of 
Britain, the scene was dominated by the three great Eastern 
Empires of Germany, Austria and Russia. Nobody thought 
of them as transitory, although the German Empire had 
come into existence only a year before I was born and the 
Russian Empire (so Western liberals thought) would have to 
adopt a parliamentary constitution sooner or later. 

I grew up as an ardent believer in optimistic liberalism. I 
both hoped and expected to see throughout the world a grad- 
ual spread of parliamentary democracy, personal liberty, and 
freedom for the countries that were at that time subject to 
European Powers, including Britain. I hoped that everybody 
would in time see the wisdom of Cobden's arguments for 
Free Trade, and that nationalism might gradually fade into a 
universal humanism. My parents, as disciples of John Stuart 
Mill, objected to the subjection of women, and I whole- 
heartedly followed them in this respect. Although, in the 
years before 1914, threatening clouds appeared upon the ho- 
rizon, it still was possible to remain optimistic and to hope 
that diplomatic adjustments would prevent a catastrophe. 

The things which I thought good in those days, I still think 
good. But, although some of them have come to pass, others 
seem very much more distant than they did in that happy 
age. On the whole, internal developments in Britain have been 
such as I could welcome. Democracy had been completed 
by the giving of votes to women. Moderate Socialism has 
been adopted within such limits as are not fatal to individual 
liberty. In the sphere of private morality, there is much more 


tolerance than there was in Victorian days. The standard of 
life among wage-earners has been greatly raised. The death 
rate, and especially the infant death rate, has been enormously 
reduced without producing a catastrophic increase of popula- 
tion. All these are vast improvements, and I have very little 
doubt that in time of peace the average level of happiness in 
Britain is a great deal higher than it was when I was young. 

But when we pass to the international scene, the picture is 
very different. The old despotism of the Czars, at which lib- 
erals used to shudder, has been succeeded by a far more in- 
tense and cruel despotism. The old Austrian Empire, which 
oppressed subject nationalities and had been the very symbol 
of reaction, has been replaced over most of its territory by a 
new and more rigorous oppression imposed from Moscow. 
China, after a long period of go-as-you-please anarchy, is be- 
ing welded in a great crucible of suffering into an infinitely 
formidable weapon of military power. The United States, 
which was to my parents the Mecca of Liberalism, is now in 
danger of becoming quite the opposite though there is still 
hope that the danger may be averted. And over all hangs the 
appalling terror of atomic war. 

This is such a different world from that of Victorian opti- 
mism that it is not altogether easy for a man who grew up in 
the one age to adjust himself to the other. It is a temptation to 
abandon hopes of which the realization seems distant and dif- 
ficult. In the lassitude of temporary defeat, it may seem no 
longer worth while to keep intact a belief in values that once 
seemed inestimable. Perhaps a well-ordered prison is all that 
the human race deserves so at least the Devil whispers in 
moments of discouragement. But some fundamental pride re- 
bels against such insidious suggestions. I will not submit my 
judgments as to what is good and what is bad to the chance 


arbitrament of the momentary course of events. I will not 
praise armies of slaves because they can win battles. The dan- 
gers are new and the measures required to avert them are un- 
precedented, but that is no reason for a change in one's esti- 
mate as to what makes a good life or a good community. 

A readiness to adapt oneself to the facts of the real world 
is often praised as a virtue, and in part it is. It is a bad thing to 
close one's eyes to facts or to fail to admit them because they 
are unwelcome. But it is also a bad thing to assume that what- 
ever is in the ascendant must be right, that regard for fact 
demands subservience to evil Even worse than conscious 
subservience to evil is the self-deception which denies that it 
is evil. When I find individual liberty being everywhere less- 
ened by regimentation, I will not on that account pretend 
that regimentation is a good thing. It may be necessary for a 
time, but one should not on that account acquiesce in it as 
part of any society that one can admire. 

I still want, and I still hope to see realized sooner or later, 
both for the individual and for the community, the same sort 
of things that I thought good when I was young. I think I 
should put first, security against extreme disaster such as that 
threatened by modern war. I should put second, the abolition 
of abject poverty throughout the world. Third, as a result of 
security and economic well-being, a general growth of tol- 
erance and kindly feeling. Fourth, the greatest possible op- 
portunity for personal initiative in ways not harmful to the 
community. All these things are possible, and all would come 
about if men chose. In the meantime, the human race lives in 
a welter of organized hatreds and threats of mutual extermi- 
nation. I cannot but think that sooner or later people will 
grow tired of this very uncomfortable way of living. A per- 
son who lived so in private life would be considered a luna- 


tic. If I bought a revolver and threatened to shoot my next- 
door neighbor, he would also no doubt buy a revolver to 
protect himself if he lived in a community where law and 
police did not exist. He and I would both find life much more 
unpleasant than it is at present, but we should not be acting 
any more absurdly than the present States which are guided 
by the supposedly best wisdom that human beings can pro- 

When I come to what I myself can do or ought to do 
about the world situation, I find myself in two minds. A per- 
petual argument goes on within me between two different 
points of view which I will call that of the Devil's Advocate 
and that of the Earnest Publicist. My family during four cen- 
turies was important in the public life of England, and I was 
brought up to feel a responsibility which demanded that I 
should express my opinion on political questions. This feeling 
is more deeply implanted in me than reason would warrant, 
and the voice of the Devil's Advocate is, at least in part, the 
voice of reason. "Can't you see,' 7 says this cynical character, 
"that what happens in the world does not depend upon you? 
Whether the populations of the world are to live or die rests 
with the decisions of Khrushchev, Mao Tse-tung and Mr, 
John Foster Dulles, not with ordinary mortals like ourselves. 
If they say 'die/ we shall die. If they say live,' we shall live. 
They do not read your books, and would think them very 
silly if they did. You forget that you are not living in 1688, 
when your family and a few others gave the king notice and 
hired another. It is only a failure to move with the times that 
makes you bother your head with public affairs." Perhaps the 
Devil's Advocate is right but perhaps he is wrong. Perhaps 
dictators are not so all-powerful as they seeni; perhaps public 
opinion can still sway them, at any rate in some degree; and 
perhaps books can help to create public opinion. And so I 


persist, regardless of his taunts. There are limits to his severi- 
ties. "Well, at any rate,'' he says, "writing books is an inno- 
cent occupation and it keeps you out of mischief." And so I 
go on writing books, though whether any good will come of 
doing so, I do not know. 

How to Grow Old 

IN SPITE of the title, this article will really be on how 
to grow old, which, at my time of life, is a much more im- 
portant subject. My first advice would be to choose your 
ancestors carefully. Although both my parents died young, I 
have done well in this respect as regards my other ancestors. 
My maternal grandfather, it is true, was cut off in the flower 
of his youth at the age of sixty-seven, but my other three 
grandparents all lived to be over eighty. Of remoter ances- 
tors I can only discover one who did not live to a great age, 
and he died of a disease which is now rare, namely, having 
his head cut off. A great-grandmother of mine, who was a 
friend of Gibbon, lived to the age of ninety-two, and to her 
last day remained a terror to all her descendants. My maternal 
grandmother, after having nine children who survived, one 
who died in infancy, and many miscarriages, as soon as she 
became a widow devoted herself to women's higher educa- 
tion. She was one of the founders of Girton College, and 
worked hard at opening the medical profession to women. 
She used to relate how she met in Italy an elderly gentleman 
who was looking very sad. She inquired the cause of his mel- 
ancholy and he said that he had just parted from his two 
grandchildren. "Good gracious/' she exclaimed, "I have sev- 
enty-two grandchildren, and if I were sad each time I parted 
from one of them, I should have a dismal existence!" "Madre 
snaturale," he replied. But speaking as one of the seventy- 
two, I prefer her recipe. After the age of eighty she found 
she had some difficulty in getting to sleep, so she habitually 



spent the hours from midnight to 3:00 A.M. in reading popu- 
lar science. I do not believe that she ever had time to notice 
that she was growing old. This, I think, is the proper recipe 
for remaining young. If you have wide and keen interests 
and activities in which you can still be effective, you will have 
no reason to think about the merely statistical fact of the 
number of years you have already lived, still less of the prob- 
able brevity of your future. 

As regards health, I have nothing useful to say since I have 
little experience of illness. I eat and drink whatever I like, 
and sleep when I cannot keep awake. I never do anything 
whatever on the ground that it is good for health, though in 
actual fact the things I like doing are mostly wholesome. 

Psychologically there are two dangers to be guarded 
against in old age. One of these is undue absorption in the 
past. It does not do to live in memories, in regrets for the 
good old days, or in sadness about friends who are dead. 
One's thoughts must be directed to the future, and to things 
about which there is something to be done. This is not always 
easy; one's own past is a gradually increasing weight. It is 
easy to think to oneself that one's emotions used to be more 
vivid than they are, and one's mind more keen. If this is true 
it should be forgotten, and if it is forgotten it will probably 
not be true. 

The other thing to be avoided is clinging to youth in the 
hope of sucking vigor from its vitality. When your children 
are grown up they want to live their own lives, and if you 
continue to be as interested in them as you were when they 
were young, you are likely to become a burden to them, un- 
less they are unusually callous. I do not mean that one should 
be without interest in them, but one's interest should be con- 
templative and, if possible, philanthropic, but not unduly 
emotional. Animals become indifferent to their young as soon 


as their young can look after themselves, but human beings, 
owing to the length of infancy, find this difficult. 

I think that a successful old age is easiest for those who 
have strong impersonal interests involving appropriate activi- 
ties. It is in this sphere that long experience is really fruitful, 
and it is in this sphere that the wisdom born of experience can 
be exercised without being oppressive. It is no use telling 
grown-up children not to make mistakes, both because they 
will not believe you, and because mistakes are an essential 
part of education. But if you are one of those who are in- 
capable of impersonal interests, you may find that your life 
will be empty unless you concern yourself with your chil- 
dren and grandchildren. In that case you must realize that 
while you can still render them material services, such as 
making them an allowance or knitting them jumpers, you 
must not expect that they will enjoy your company. 

Some old people are oppressed by the fear of death. In the 
young there is a justification for this feeling. Young men who 
have reason to fear that they will be killed in battle may justi- 
fiably feel bitter in the thought that they have been cheated 
of the best things that life has to offer. But in an old man who 
has known human joys and sorrows, and has achieved what- 
ever work it was in him to do, the fear of death is somewhat 
abject and ignoble. The best way to overcome it so at least 
it seems to me is to make your interests gradually wider 
and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego 
recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the uni- 
versal life. An individual human existence should be like a 
river small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and 
rushing passionately past boulders and over waterfalls. Grad- 
ually the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters 
flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, 
they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their indi- 


vidual being. The man who, in old age, can see his life in this 
way, will not suffer from the fear of death, since the things 
he cares for will continue. And if, with the decay of vitality, 
weariness increases, the thought of rest will be not unwel- 
come. I should wish to die while still at work, knowing that 
others will carry on what I can no longer do, and content in 
the thought that what was possible has been done. 

[Reprinted from New Hopes -for a Changing World] 

Reflections on 
My Eightieth Birthday 

O* REACHING the age of eighty it is reasonable to sup- 
pose that the bulk of one's work is done, and that 
what remains to do will be of less importance. The 
serious part of my life ever since boyhood has been devoted 
to two different objects which for a long time remained sep- 
arate and have only in recent years united into a single whole. 
I wanted, on the one hand, to find out whether anything 
could be known; and, on the other hand, to do whatever 
might be possible toward creating a happier woHd. Up to the 
age of thirty-eight I gave most of my energies to the first of 
these tasks. I was troubled by skepticism and unwillingly 
forced to the conclusion that most of what passes for knowl- 
edge is open to reasonable doubt. I wanted certainty in the 
kind of way in which people want religious faith. I thought 
that certainty is more likely to be found in mathematics than 
elsewhere. But I discovered that many mathematical demon- 
strations, which my teachers expected me to accept, were 
full of fallacies, and that, if certainty were indeed discover- 
able in mathematics, it would be in a new kind of mathe- 
matics, with more solid foundations than those that had hith- 
erto been thought secure. But as the work proceeded, I was 
continually reminded of the fable about the elephant and the 
tortoise. Having constructed an elephant upon which the 
mathematical world could rest, I found the elephant totter- 



ing, and proceeded to construct a tortoise to keep the ele- 
phant from falling. But the tortoise was no more secure than 
the elephant, and after some twenty years of very arduous 
toil, I came to the conclusion that there was nothing more 
that 7 could do in the way of making mathematical knowl- 
edge indubitable. Then came the First World War, and my 
thoughts became concentrated on human misery and folly. 
Neither misery nor folly seems to me any part of the inevi- 
table lot of man. And I am convinced that intelligence, pa- 
tience, and eloquence can, sooner or later, lead the human 
race out of its self-imposed tortures provided it does not ex- 
terminate itself meanwhile. 

On the basis of this belief, I have had always a certain de- 
gree of optimism, although, as I have grown older, the opti- 
mism has grown more sober and the happy issue more distant. 
But I remain completely incapable of agreeing with those 
who accept fatalistically the view that man is born to trouble. 
The causes of unhappiness in the past and, in the present are 
not difficult to ascertain. ' There have been poverty, pesti- 
lence, and famine, which were due to man's inadequate mas- 
tery of nature. There have been wars, oppressions and tor- 
tures which have been due to men's hostility to their fellow 
men. And there have been morbid miseries fostered by 
gloomy creeds, which have led men into profound inner dis- 
cords that made all outward prosperity of no avail. All these 
are unnecessary. In regard to all of them, means are known 
by which they can be overcome. In the modern world, if 
communities are unhappy, it is because they choose to ^e so. 
Or, to speak more precisely, because they have ignorances, 
habits, beliefs, and passions, which are dearer to them than 
happiness or even life. I find many men in our dangerous age 
who seem to "be in love with misery and death, and who 
grow angry when hopes are suggested to them. They think 


that hope is irrational and that, in sitting down to lazy de- 
spair, they are merely facing facts. I cannot agree with these 
men. To preserve hope in our world makes calls upon our in- 
telligence and our energy. In those who despair it is very fre- 
quently the energy that is lacking. 

The last half of my life has been lived in one of those pain- 
ful epochs of human history during which the world is get- 
ting worse, and past victories which had seemed to be defini- 
tive have turned out to be only temporary, When I was 
young, Victorian optimism was taken for granted. It was 
thought that freedom and prosperity would spread gradually 
throughout the world by an orderly process, and it was 
hoped that cruelty, tyranny, and injustice would continually 
diminish. Hardly anyone was haunted by the fear of great 
wars. Hardly anyone thought of the nineteenth century as a 
brief interlude between past and future barbarism. For those 
who grew up in that atmosphere, adjustment to the world of 
the present has been difficult. It has been difficult not only 
emotionally but intellectually. Ideas that had been thought 
adequate have proved inadequate. In some directions valuable 
freedoms have proved very hard to preserve. In other direc- 
tions, specially as regards relations between nations, freedoms 
formerly valued have proved potent sources of disaster. New 
thoughts, new hopes, new freedoms, and new restrictions 
upon freedom are needed if the world is to emerge from its 
present perilous state. 

I cannot pretend that what I have done in regard to social 
and political problems has had any great importance. It is 
comparatively easy to have an immense effect by means of 
a dogmatic and precise gospel, such as that of Communism. 
But for my part I cannot believe that what mankind needs is 
anything either precise or dogmatic. Nor can I believe with 
any wholeheartedness in any partial doctrine which deals 


only with some part or aspect of human life. There are those 
who hold that everything depends upon institutions, and that 
good institutions will inevitably bring the millennium. And, 
on the other hand, there are those who believe that what is 
needed is a change of heart, and that, in comparison, institu- 
tions are of little account. I cannot accept either view. Institu- 
tions mold character, and character transforms institutions. 
Reforms in both must march hand in hand. And if individuals 
are to retain that measure of initiative and flexibility which 
they ought to have, they must not be all forced into one rigid 
mold; or, to change the metaphor, all drilled into one army. 
Diversity is essential in spite of the fact that it precludes uni- 
versal acceptance of a single gospel. But to preach such a doc- 
trine is difficult especially in arduous times. And perhaps it 
cannot be eff ective until some bitter lessons have been learned 
by tragic experience. 

My work is near its end, and the time has come when I 
can survey it as a whole. How far have I succeeded, and how 
far have I failed? From an early age I thought of myself as 
dedicated to great and arduous tasks. Sixty-one years ago, 
walking alone in the Tiergarten through melting snow under 
the coldly glittering March sun, I determined to write two 
series of books: one abstract, growing gradually more con- 
crete; the other concrete, growing gradually more abstract. 
They were to be crowned by a synthesis, combining pure 
theory with a practical social philosophy. Except for the final 
synthesis, which still eludes me, I have written these books. 
They have been acclaimed and praised, and the thoughts of 
many men and women have been affected by them. To this 
extent I have succeeded. 

But as against this must be set two kinds of failure, one out- 
ward, one inward. 

To begin with the outward failure: the Tiergarten has be- 


come a desert; the Brandenburger Tor, through which I en- 
tered it on that March morning, has become the boundary of 
two hostile empires, glaring at each other across an almost 
invisible barrier, and grimly preparing the ruin of mankind. 
Communists, Fascists, and Nazis have successively challenged 
all that I thought good, and in defeating them much of what 
their opponents have sought to preserve is being lost. Free- 
dom has come to be thought weakness, and tolerance has 
been compelled to wear the garb of treachery. Old ideals 
are judged irrelevant, and no doctrine free from harshness 
commands respect. 

The inner failure, though of little moment to the world, 
has made my mental life a perpetual battle. I set out with a 
more or less religious belief in a Platonic eternal world, in 
which mathematics shone with a beauty like that of the last 
Cantos of the Paradiso. I came to the conclusion that the 
eternal world is trivial, and that mathematics is only the art 
of saying the same thing in different words. I set out with a 
belief that love, free and courageous, could conquer the 
world without fighting, I ended by supporting a bitter and 
terrible war. In these respects there was failure. 

But beneath all this load of failure I am still conscious of 
something that I feel to be victory. I may have conceived the- 
oretical truth wrongly, but I was not wrong in thinking that 
there is such a thing, and that it deserves our allegiance. I 
may have thought the road to a world of free and happy 
human beings shorter than it is proving to be, but I was not 
wrong in thinking that such a world is possible, and that it is 
worth while to live with a view to bringing it nearer. I have 
lived in the pursuit of a vision, both personal and social. Per- 
sonal: to care for what is noble, for what is beautiful, for 
what is gentle; to allow moments of insight to give wisdom 
at more mundane times. Social: to see in imagination the so- 


ciety that is to be created, where individuals grow freely, 
and where hate and greed and envy die because there is noth- 
ing to nourish them. These things I believe, and the world, 
for all its horrors, has left me unshaken. 


Some Cambridge Dons of 
the Nineties 

IT is now sixty-six years since I went up to Cambridge. 
The world in those days was a more leisurely place than 
it is now, and Cambridge was a much more leisurely 
place. From the point of view of an irreverent undergraduate 
the Dons of that time belonged to one or other of three not 
quite separate classes: there were figures of fun; there were 
men who were technically competent but uninteresting; and 
there was a small class of men whom we, the young, admired 
wholeheartedly and enthusiastically. 

Some of the oddities, it must be said, were very odd. There 
was a Fellow who had a game leg and was known to be ad- 
dicted to the amiable practice of putting the poker in the fire 
and when it became red-hot running after his guests with a 
view to murder. I discovered at last that he was only roused 
to homicidal fury when people sneezed. Owing to his game 
leg, those whom he attacked always escaped, and nobody 
minded his little peculiarities. I used to go to tea with him 
myself but I went away if I saw him put the poker into the 
fire. Except in his moments of aberration he was charming, 
and it never occurred to anyone to place him under restraint. 



My mathematical coach was less fortunate. He went mad, 
but none of his pupils noticed it. At last he had to be shut up. 
That, however, was exceptional. 

At a somewhat lower level of oddity, there were the two 
rivals for the honor of entertaining the Empress Frederick, 
namely Oscar Browning (always known as O. B.) and the 
Professor of Fine Arts. The latter was the more successful. 
He said to me on one occasion, "It really was most annoying 
that, in spite of all I could do to dissuade her, the Empress 
Frederick insisted on lunching with me a second time." On 
the evening of that same day, O. B. sighed wearily and said, 
"I've been Empress-hunting all day." He found it very diffi- 
cult to admit that there were any Royalties whom he did not 
know personally. The nearest he ever came to it was in say- 
ing of the King of Saxony: "I knew him very well by 
sight." There were endless stories about O. B. He was fat, 
tubby and unusually ugly. But malicious undergraduates, by 
purchasing large numbers of a certain picture paper, secured 
him the second prize in a beauty competition. (I myself 
heard him boast of this prize.) It was said that Tennyson, on 
a visit to Cambridge, had been entertained by the Fellows of 
Kings, who came up one by one, mentioning their names. 
When O. B. came up and said, "I'm Browning," Tennyson 
looked at him and said, "You're not." But I cannot vouch for 
the truth of this story. 

The really fine flower of perfect Don-ishness was already 
passing away when I was an undergraduate, but I used to 
hear stories of it from older contemporaries. There was the 
Don who, whenever any reform was proposed, made exactly 
the same speech. He would say: "When a measure of this 
kind is suggested, I ask myself two questions: 'Has the old 
system worked badly?' 'Is the new system likely to work bet- 
ter? ' I see no reason to answer either question in the affirma- 


tive, and I shall therefore vote against the proposal." Then 
there was the Don who disliked the subversive suggestion 
that Fellows henceforth need not be in Orders. Some rash 
men had maintained that the clerical and educational duties 
of Fellows might interfere with each other. He rebutted this 
argument with the words: u When the Roman Emperor as- 
sumed the Purple, it was the custom to make him a member 
of the College of Augurs. But it was not expected that he 
should feed the Sacred Chickens/' This rich vintage was ex- 
hausted before my day. The nearest approach that I can re- 
member was the Professor of Arabic who, to everybody's 
surprise, voted Liberal When asked why, he replied: "Be- 
cause when Mr. Gladstone is in office, he has no time to write 
about Holy Scripture." 

The oddities, however, were exceptional The great ma- 
jority of Dons did their work competently without being 
either laughable or interesting. Sometimes, however, even 
among them rare merit would suddenly emerge. I remember 
a mathematical lecturer whom I had always thought quite 
uninteresting. He was lecturing on hydrostatics, working out 
a problem about a vessel with a lid rotating in a bathtub. 
One of the pupils said, "Haven't you forgotten the centrifu- 
gal forces on the lid?" The lecturer gasped and replied, 'Tve 
worked out this problem that way for twenty years. But 
you're right." From that moment we all felt a new respect 
for him. 

The Dons, whom my contemporaries and I profoundly re- 
spected, had a great influence upon us, even sometimes when 
we had nothing to do with them in the way of work. There 
was, for example, Verrall, whose specialty was Euripides. He 
was brilliantly witty in a rather academic style. When Gran- 
ville Barker was going to produce one of Gilbert Murray's 
translations of Euripides, he came to Cambridge to ask Ver- 


rail what a Mycenaean hut looked like. Verrall replied, "No 
one knows, but Miss Harrison will tell you." He became a 
victim of arthritis, which gradually deprived him of the use 
first of his legs and then of other muscles. In spite of intense 
pain, he continued to display exactly the same kind of rather 
glittering wit, and, so long as the power of speech remained 
with him, did not allow physical disability to affect his mind 
or his outlook. His wife was a believer in spiritualism and 
used to bring him masses of nonsensical script obtained by 
automatic writing. His practice in making sense out of Greek 
manuscripts enabled him to emend these scripts until they 
seemed to have sense. But I am afraid his attitude was not as 
reverential as the spirits could have wished. 

Then there was Henry Sidgwick the philosopher, the last 
surviving representative of the Utilitarians. He had become a 
Fellow at a time when it was still necessary to sign the 
Thirty-Nine Articles, and he had signed them with full con- 
scientious belief. Some years later he began to have doubts, 
and, although he was not required to sign the Articles again 
his conscience led him to resign his Fellowship. This action 
did much to hasten the abolition of this out-of-date require- 
ment. In philosophical ability he was not quite in the first 
rank, but his intellectual integrity was absolute and undevi- 
ating. He married Arthur Balf our's sister, but did not agree 
with Arthur Balf our's politics. During the first months of the 
Boer War, he remarked that it would be very convenient for 
future schoolboys that the British Empire fell in exactly the 
year 1900. His lectures were not very interesting and those 
who listened to them came to know that there was always 
one joke. After the joke had come they let their attention 
wander. He had a stammer which he used very effectively. 
A German learned man once said to him. "You English have 
no word for Gelehrte" "Yes, we have," Sidgwick replied, 


"we call them p-p-p-p-prigs." I am sorry to say that there 
was a quarrel between him and another eminent man, Sir 
Richard Jebb, Professor of Greek and Member of Parliament 
for the university. A new road had to be made and part of 
Jebb's garden was cut off in order to make it. Sidgwick had 
agitated for the new road, which was needed to give access to 
Newham College, of which Mrs. Sidgwick was principal. 
This was bad enough. But when it was decided to call the 
road "Sidgwick Avenue" it was more than Jcbb could bear. 
It was commonly said, though I do not vouch for the story, 
that Sidgwick remarked concerning Jebb, "All the time that 
he can spare from the adornment of his person, he devotes to 
the neglect of his duties." A slightly less bitter quarrel arose 
between Verrall and his neighbor James Ward the philoso- 
pher, because their wives agreed to share a pig tub and each 
said that the other contributed less than her moiety. But the 
quarrels were not very grave and contributed to everybody's 
entertainment. For James Ward, in spite of the affair of the 
pig tub, I had a profound respect and a considerable affection, 
He was my chief teacher in philosophy and, although after- 
ward I came to disagree with him, I have remained grateful 
to him, not only for instruction, but for much kindness. 

There were other Dons who interested me, although I 
knew them less well. Sir James Frazer, author of The Golden 
Bough, was one of these. Fellows had dinner in Hall without 
payment, and, as a Scot, Frazer could not ignore this consid- 
eration. Any Fellow arriving more than quarter of an hour 
late was subject to a fine, but Frazer grudged every minute 
taken from his studies for the gross work of self-nourish- 
ment. He therefore always arrived in Hall exactly quarter of 
an hour late. Then there was Sir George Darwin. Charles 
Darwin, his eminent father, had not been considered by the 


University clever enough for a Honors degree and had con- 
tented himself with a Pass, but, since his time, intellectual 
standards in the university had deteriorated and his sons were 
allowed professorships. Sir George Darwin was famous as a 
mathematical physicist. One day when I went to lunch with 
him I found him and another famous mathematician, Sir Rob- 
ert Ball, bending over a calculating machine which wouldn't 
work. After they had tinkered with it for a long time, Lady 
Darwin, who was American, came in and said, "All it wants 
is a little sewing-machine oil." And she was right. 

One of the characteristics of academic personages was lon- 
gevity. When I was a freshman, the College was dominated 
by three elderly dignitaries: the Master, the Vice-Master, and 
the Senior Fellow. When I returned to the College twenty 
years later as a lecturer, they were still going strong, and 
seemed no older. The Master had been Head Master of Har- 
row when my father was a boy there. I breakfasted at the 
Master's Lodge on a day which happened to be his sister-in- 
law's birthday, and when she came into the room he said, 
"Now, my dear, you have lasted just as long as the Pelopon- 
nesian War." The Vice-Master, who always stood as stiffly 
upright as a ramrod, never appeared out of doors except in a 
top hat, even when he was wakened by a fire at three in the 
morning. It was said that he never read a line of Tennyson 
after witnessing the poet putting water into the '34 port. Be- 
fore dinner in Hall the Master and the Vice-Master used to 
read a long Latin Grace in alternate sentences. The Master 
adopted the Continental pronunciation but the Vice-Master 
adhered uncompromisingly to the old English style. The con- 
trast was curious and enlivening. The Senior Fellow was the 
last survivor of the old system by which men got life Fellow- 
ships at twenty-two and had no further duties except to 


draw their dividend. This duty he performed punctiliously, 
but otherwise he was not known to have done any work 
whatever since the age of twenty-two. 

As the case of the Senior Fellow shows, security of tenure 
was carried very far. The result was partly good, partly bad. 
Very good men flourished, and so did some who were not so 
good. Incompetence, oddity and even insanity were tolerated, 
but so was real merit. In spite of some lunacy and some lazi- 
ness, Cambridge was a good place, where independence of 
mind could exist undeterred. 


Some of My Contemporaries 
at Cambridge 

FROM the moment that I went up to Cambridge at the 
beginning of October 1890, everything went well with 
me. All the people then in residence who subsequently 
became my intimate friends called on me during the first 
week of term. At the time I did not know why they did so, 
but I discovered afterward that Whitehead, who had exam- 
ined for scholarships, had told people to look out for Sanger 
and me. Sanger was a freshman like myself, also doing math- 
ematics, and also a minor scholar. He and I both had rooms in 
Whewell's Court. Webb, our coach, had a practice of circu- 
lating MSS. among his classes, and it fell to my lot to deliver 
an MS. to Sanger after I had done with it. I had not seen him 
before, but I was struck by the books on his shelves. I said: "I 
see you have Draper's Intellectual Development of Europe 
which I think a very good book." He said: "You are the first 
person I have ever met who has heard of it!" From this point 
the conversation proceeded, and at the end of half an hour 
we were lifelong friends. We compared notes as to how much 
mathematics we had done. We agreed upon theology and 
metaphysics. We disagreed upon politics (he was at the time 



a Conservative, though in later life he belonged to the Labor 
Party). He spoke to me about Shaw, whose name was until 
then unknown to me. We used to work on mathematics to- 
gether. He was incredibly quick, and would be halfway 
through solving a problem before I had understood the ques- 
tion. We both devoted our fourth year to moral science, but 
he did economics, and I did philosophy. We got our Fellow- 
ships at the same moment. He was one of the kindest men 
that ever lived, and in the last years of his life my children 
loved him as much as I have done. I have never known any- 
one else with such a perfect combination of penetrating in- 
tellect and warm affection. He became a Chancery barrister, 
and was known in legal circles for his highly erudite edition 
of Jarman On Wills. He was also a very good economist; and 
he could read an incredible number of languages, including 
such out-of-the-way items as Magyar and Finnish. I used to 
go on walking tours with him in Italy, and he always made 
me do all the conversation with innkeepers, but when I was 
reading Italian, I found that his knowledge of the language 
was vastly greater than mine. His death in the year 1930 was 
a great sorrow to me. 

The other friends whom I acquired during my first term I 
owed chiefly to Whitehead's recommendation. Two of my 
closest friends were Crompton and Theodore Llewelyn Da- 
vies. Their father was vicar of Kirkby Lonsdale, and transla- 
tor of Plato's Republic in the Golden Treasury edition, a dis- 
tinguished scholar and a Broad Churchman whose views 
were derived from F. D. Maurice. He had a family of six sons 
and one daughter. It was said, and I believe with truth, that 
throughout their education the six sons, of whom Crompton 
and Theodore were the youngest, managed, by means of 
scholarships, to go through school and universtiy without ex- 
pense to their father. Most of them were also strikingly good- 


looking, including Crompton, who had very fine blue eyes, 
which sometimes sparkled with fun and at other times had a 
steady gaze that was deeply serious. The ablest and one of 
the best loved of the family was the youngest, Theodore, 
with whom, when I first knew them, Crompton shared 
rooms in College. They both in due course became Fellows, 
but neither of them became resident. Afterward the two 
lived together in a small house near Westminster Abbey, in a 
quiet out-of-the-way street. Both of them were able, high- 
minded and passionate and shared, on the whole, the same 
ideals and opinions. Theodore had a somewhat more practi- 
cal outlook on life than Crompton. He became private secre- 
tary to a series of Conservative Chancellors of the Ex- 
chequer, each of whom in turn he converted to Free Trade 
at a time when the rest of the Government wished them to 
think otherwise. He worked incredibly hard and yet always 
found time to give presents to the children of all his friends, 
and the presents were always exactly appropriate. He inspired 
the deepest affection in almost everybody who knew him. I 
never knew but one woman who would not have been de- 
lighted to marry him. She, of course, was the only woman he 
wished to marry. In the spring of 1905, when he was thirty- 
four, his dead body was found in a pool near Kirkby Lonsdale, 
where he had evidently bathed on his way to the station. It 
was supposed that he must have hit his head on a rock in 

One of my earliest memories of Crompton is of meeting 
him in the darkest part of a winding College staircase and his 
suddenly quoting, without any previous word, the whole of 
"Tyger, Tyger, burning bright. 77 I had never, till that mo- 
ment, heard of Blake, and the poem affected me so much that 
I became dizzy and had to lean against the wall. 

What made Crompton at the same time so admirable and 


so delightful was not his ability, but his strong loves and 
hates, his fantastic humor, and his rocklike honesty. He was 
one of the wittiest men that I have ever known, with a great 
love of mankind combined with a contemptuous hatred for 
most individual men. He had by no means the ways of a 
saint. Once, when we were both young, I was walking with 
him in the country, and we trespassed over a corner of a 
farmer's land. The farmer came running out after us, shout- 
ing and red with fury. Crompton held his hand to his ear, 
and said, with the utmost mildness: "Would you mind speak- 
ing a little louder? I'm rather hard of hearing." The farmer 
was reduced to speechlessness in the endeavor to make more 
noise than he was already making. 

Crompton was addicted to extreme shabbiness in his 
clothes, to such a degree that some of his friends expostulated, 
This had an unexpected result. When West Australia at- 
tempted by litigation to secede from the Commonwealth of 
Australia, his law firm was employed, and it was decided that 
the case should be heard in the King's Robing Room. Cromp- 
ton was overheard ringing up the King's Chamberlain and 
saying: 'The unsatisfactory state of my trousers has lately 
been brought to my notice. I understand that the case is to be 
heard in the King's Robing Room. Perhaps the King has left 
an old pair of trousers there that might be useful to me," 

Another friend of my Cambridge years was McTaggart, 
the philosopher, who was even shyer than I was, I heard a 
knock on my. door one day a very gentle knock. I said, 
"Come in," but nothing happened. I said "Come in," louder. 
The door opened and I saw McTaggart standing on the mat. 
He was already President of The Union, and about to become 
a Fellow, and inspired me with awe on account of his meta- 
physical reputation, but he was too shy to come in, and I was 
too shy to ask him to come in. I cannot remember how many 


minutes this situation lasted, but somehow or other he was at 
last in the room. After that I used frequently to go to his 
breakfasts, which were famous for their lack of food; in fact, 
anybody who had been once, brought an egg with him on 
every subsequent occasion. McTaggart was a Hegelian, and 
at that time still young and enthusiastic. He had a great intel- 
lectual influence upon my generation, though in retrospect I 
do not think it was a very good one. For two or three years, 
under his influence, I was a Hegelian. Although after 1898 
I no longer accepted McTaggart's philosophy, I remained 
fond of him until an occasion during the First War, when he 
asked me no longer to come and see him because he could 
not bear my opinions. He followed this up by taking a leading 
part in having me turned out of my lectureship. 

Two other friends whom I met in my early days in Cam- 
bridge and retained ever since, were Lowes Dickinson and 
Roger Fry. Dickinson was a man who inspired affection by 
his gentleness and pathos. When he was a Fellow and I was 
still an undergraduate, I became aware that I was liable to 
hurt him by my somewhat brutal statement of unpleasant 
truths, or what I thought to be such. States of the world 
which made me caustic only made him sad, and to the end 
of his days whenever I met him, I was afraid of increasing his 
unhappiness by too stark a realism. But perhaps realism is not 
quite the right word. What I really mean is the practice of 
describing things which one finds almost unendurable in such 
a repulsive manner as to cause others to share one's fury. He 
told me once that I resembled Cordelia, but it cannot be said 
that he resembled King Lear. 

For a long time I supposed that somewhere in the Univer- 
sity there were really clever people whom I had not yet met, 
and whom I should at once recognize as my intellectual su- 
periors, but during my second year I discovered that I al- 


ready knew all the cleverest people in the university. This 
was a disappointment to me. In my third year, however, I 
met G. E. Moore, who was then a freshman, and for some 
years he fulfilled my ideal of genius. He was in those days 
beautiful and slim, with a look almost of inspiration, and with 
an intellect as deeply passionate as Spinoza's. He had a kind of 
exquisite purity. I have never but once succeeded in making 
him tell a lie, and that was by a subterfuge. "Moore," I said, 
"do you always speak the truth?" "No," he replied. I believe 
this to be the only lie he has ever told. 

Moore, like me, was influenced by McTaggart, and was 
for a short time a Hegelian. But he emerged more quickly 
than I did, and it was largely his conversation that led me to 
abandon both Kant and Hegel. In spite of his being two years 
younger than I, he greatly influenced my philosophical 
outlook. One of the pet amusements of all Moore's friends 
was to watch him trying to light a pipe. He would light a 
match, and then begin to argue, and continue until the match 
burned his fingers. Then he would light another, and so on, 
until the box was finished. This was no doubt fortunate for 
his health, as it provided moments during which he was not 

Then there were the three brothers Trevelyan, Charles 
was the eldest. Bob, the second, was my special friend. He 
became a very scholarly poet. When he was young he had a 
delicious whimsical humor. Once, when we were on a read- 
ing party in the Lake District, Eddie Marsh, having overslept 
himself, came down In his nightshirt to see if breakfast was 
ready, looking frozen and miserable. Bob christened him 
"Cold white shape," and this name stuck to him for a long 
time. George Trevelyan was considerably younger than Bob, 
but I got to know him well later on. He and Charles were 
terrific walkers. Once when I went on a walking tour with 


George in Devonshire, I made him promise to be content 
with twenty-five miles a day. He kept his promise. But at the 
end of the last day he left me, saying that now he must have 
a little walking. 

Bob Trevelyan was, I think, the most bookish person that I 
have ever known. What is in books appeared to him interest- 
ing, whereas what is only real life was negligible. Like all the 
family, he had a minute knowledge of the strategy and tactics 
concerned in all the great battles of the world, so far as these 
appear in reputable books of history. But I was staying with 
him during the crisis of the Battle of the Marne, and as it was 
Sunday we could only get a newspaper by walking two miles. 
He did not think the battle sufficiently interesting to be worth 
it, because battles in mere newspapers are vulgar. I once de- 
vised a test question which I put to many people to discover 
whether they were pessimists. The question was: "If you had 
the power to destroy the world, would you do so?" I put the 
question to him, and he replied: "What? Destroy my library? 
Never!" He was always discovering new poets and read- 
ing their poems out aloud, but he always began deprecat- 
ingly: "This is not one of his best poems." Once when he 
mentioned a new poet to me, and said he would like to read 
me some of his things, I said: "Yes, but don't read me a poem 
which is not one of his best." This stumped him completely, 
and he put the volume away. 

I have not time to tell of many others who were important 
to me. Eddie Marsh (afterward Sir Edward) was my close 
friend. So was Desmond MacCarthy. E. M. Forster and Lyt- 
ton Strachey and Keynes I knew well, though they were 
considerably junior to me. As a set, we were earnest, hard- 
working and intellectually adventurous. In spite of rather 
solemn ambitions, we had lots of fun and thoroughly en- 
joyed life, and we never got in the way of each other's indi- 


vidualities. We formed friendships that remained important 
through life, and a surprising number of us remained true to 
our early beliefs. It was a generation that I am glad to have 
belonged to. 


George Bernard Shaw 

BERNARD SHAW'S long life could be divided into three 
phases. In the first, which lasted till he was about 
forty, he was known to a fairly wide circle as a musi- 
cal critic, and to a much more restricted circle as a Fabian 
controversialist, an admirable novelist, and a dangerously 
witty enemy of humbug. Then came his second phase, as a 
writer of comedies. At first he could not get his plays per- 
formed, because they were not exactly like those of Pinero, 
but at last even theatrical managers realized that they were 
amusing, and he achieved a very well-deserved success. He 
had, I believe, cherished throughout his earlier life the hope 
that, when he had acquired an audience as a joker, he would 
be able effectively to deliver his serious message. Accord- 
ingly, in his third and last phase, he appeared as a prophet de- 
manding equal admiration for St. Joan of Orleans and St. 
Joseph of Moscow. I knew him in all three phases, and in his 
first two I thought him both delightful and useful. In his 
third phase, however, I found that my admiration had limits. 
I heard of him first in 1890, when I, as a freshman, met 
another freshman who admired his Quintessence of Ibsenism, 
but I did not meet him until 1896 when he took part in an 
International Socialist Congress in London. I knew a great 



many of the German delegates, as I had been studying Ger- 
man Social Democracy. They regarded Shaw as an incarna- 
tion of Satan, because he could not resist the pleasure of fan- 
ning the flames whenever there was a dispute. I, however, 
derived my view of him from the Webbs, and admired his 
Fabian essay in which he set to work to lead British Socialism 
away from Marx, He was at this time still shy. Indeed, I think 
that his wit, like that of many famous humorists, was devel- 
oped as a defense against expected hostile ridicule. At this 
time he was just beginning to write plays, and he came to my 
flat to read one of them to a small gathering of friends. He 
was white and trembling with nervousness, and not at all 
the formidable figure that he became later. Shortly after- 
ward, he and I stayed with the Webbs in Monmouthshire 
while he was learning the technique of the drama. He would 
write the names of all his characters on little squares of paper, 
and, when he was doing a scene, he would put on a chess 
board in front of him the names of the characters who were 
on the stage in that scene. 

At this time he and I were involved in a bicycle accident, 
which I feared for a moment might have brought his career 
to a premature close. He was only just learning to ride a bi- 
cycle, and he ran into my machine with such force that he 
was hurled through the air and landed on his back twenty 
feet from the place of the collision. However, he got up com- 
pletely unhurt and continued his ride; whereas my bicycle 
was smashed, and I had to return by train. It was a very slow 
train, and at every station Shaw with his bicycle appeared on 
the platform, put his head into the carriage and jeered. I sus- 
pect that he regarded the whole incident as proof of the vir- 
tues of vegetarianism. 

Lunching with Mr. and Mrs. Shaw in Adelphi Terrace was 
a somewhat curious experience. Mrs. Shaw was a very able 


manager and used to provide Shaw with such a delicious 
vegetarian meal that the guests all regretted their more con- 
ventional menu. But he could not resist a somewhat frequent 
repetition of his favorite anecdotes. Whenever he came to his 
uncle who committed suicide by putting his head in a carpet- 
bag and then shutting it, a look of unutterable boredom used 
to appear on Mrs. Shaw's face, and if one were sitting next 
her one had to take care not to listen to Shaw. This, how- 
ever, did not prevent her from solicitude for him. I remem- 
ber a luncheon at which a young and lovely poetess was pres- 
ent in the hopes of reading her poems to Shaw. As we said 
good-by, Shaw informed us that she was staying behind for 
this purpose. Nevertheless, when we departed we found her 
on the mat, Mrs. Shaw having maneuvered her there by 
methods that I was not privileged to observe. When I learned, 
not long afterward, that this same lady had cut her throat at 
Wells because he refused to make love to her, I conceived an 
even higher respect than before for Mrs. Shaw. 

Wifely solicitude toward Shaw was no sinecure. When 
they and the Webbs were all nearing eighty, they came to see 
me at my house on the South Downs. The house had a tower 
from which there was a very fine view, and all of them 
climbed the stairs. Shaw was first and Mrs. Shaw last. All the 
time that he was climbing, her voice came up from below, 
calling out, "GBS, don't talk while you're going up the 
stairs!" But her advice was totally ineffective, and his sen- 
tences flowed on quite uninterruptedly. 

Shaw's attack on Victorian humbug and hypocrisy was as 
beneficent as it was delightful, and for this the English un- 
doubtedly owe him a debt of gratitude. It was a part of Vic- 
torian humbug to endeavor to conceal vanity. When I was 
young, we all made a show of thinking no better of our- 
selves than of our neighbors. Shaw found this effort weari- 


some, and had already given it up when he first burst upon 
the world. It used to be the custom among clever people to 
say that Shaw was not unusually vain, but only unusually 
candid. I came to think later on that this was a mistake. Two 
incidents at which I was present convinced me of this. The 
first was a luncheon in London in honor of Bergson, to which 
Shaw had been invited as an admirer, along with a number of 
professional philosophers whose attitude to Bergson was 
more critical Shaw set to work to expound Bergson's phi- 
losophy in the style of the preface to Methuselah. In this ver- 
sion, the philosophy was hardly one to recommend itself to 
professionals, and Bergson mildly interjected, "Ah, no-o! it is 
not qvite zat!" But Shaw was quite unabashed, and replied, 
"Oh, my dear fellow, I understand your philosophy much 
better than you do." Bergson clenched his fists and nearly 
exploded with rage; but, with a great effort, he controlled 
himself, and Shaw's expository monologue continued. 

The second incident was an encounter with the elder Ma- 
saryk, who was in London officially, and intimated through 
his secretary that there were certain people whom he would 
like to see at ro:oo A.M. before his official duties began. I was 
one of them, and when I arrived I discovered that the only 
others were Shaw and Wells and Swinnerton. The rest of us 
arrived punctually, but Shaw was late. He marched straight 
up to the Great Man and said: "Masaryk, the foreign policy 
of Czechoslovakia is all wrong." He expounded this theme 
for about ten minutes, and left without waiting to hear Ma- 
saryk's reply. 

Shaw, like many witty men, considered wit an adequate sub- 
stitute for wisdom. He could defend any idea, however 
silly, so cleverly as to make those who did not accept it look 
like fools. 1 met him once at an "Erewhon Dinner" in honor 
of Samuel Butler and I learned with surprise that he ac- 


cepted as gospel every word uttered by that sage, and even 
theories that were only intended as jokes, as, for example, 
that the Odyssey was written by a woman. Butler's influence 
on Shaw was much greater than most people realized. It was 
from him that Shaw acquired his antipathy to Darwin, which 
afterward made him an admirer of Bergson. It is a curious 
fact that the views which Butler adopted, in order to have an 
excuse for quarreling with Darwin, became part of officially 
enforced orthodoxy in the U.S.S.R. 

Shaw's contempt for science was indefensible. Like Tol- 
stoy, he couldn't believe in the importance of anything he 
didn't know. He was passionate against vivisection. I think 
the reason was, not any sympathy for animals, but a disbelief 
in the scientific knowledge which vivisection is held to pro- 
vide. His vegetarianism also, I think, was not due to humani- 
tarian motives, but rather to his ascetic impulses, to which he 
gave full expression in the last act of Methuselah. 

Shaw was at his best as a controversialist. If there was any- 
thing silly or anything insincere about his opponent, Shaw 
would seize on it unerringly to the delight of all those who 
were on his side in the controversy. At the beginning of the 
First World War he published his Common Sense about the 
War. Although he did not write as a Pacifist, he infuriated 
most patriotic people by refusing to acquiesce in the hypo- 
critical high moral tone of the Government and its followers. 
He was entirely praiseworthy in this sort of way, until he 
fell a victim to adulation of the Soviet Government and sud- 
denly lost the power of criticism and of seeing through hum- 
bug if it came from Moscow. Excellent as he was in contro- 
versy, he was not nearly so good when it came to setting 
forth his own opinions, which were somewhat chaotic until 
in his last years he acquiesced in systematic Marxism. Shaw 
had many qualities which deserve great admiration. He was 


completely fearless. He expressed his opinions with equal 
vigor whether they were popular or unpopular. He was mer- 
ciless toward those who deserve no mercy but sometimes, 
also, to those who did not deserve to be his victims. In sum, 
one may say that he did much good and some harm. As an 
iconoclast he was admirable, but as an icon rather less so. 


H. G. Wells 

1 FIRST met H. G. Wells in 1902 at a small discussion so- 
ciety created by Sidney Webb and by him christened 
"The Co-efficients" in the hope that we should be 
jointly efficient. There were about a dozen of us. Some have 
escaped my memory. Among those whom I remember, the 
most distinguished was Sir Edward Grey. Then there was 
H. J. MacKinder (afterward Sir) who was Reader in Geog- 
raphy at the University of Oxford and a great authority on 
the then new German subject of geopolitics. What I found 
most interesting about him was that he had climbed Kiliman- 
jaro with a native guide who walked barefoot except in vil- 
lages, where he wore dancing pumps. There was Amory. 
And there was Commander Bellairs, a breezy naval officer 
who was engaged in a perpetual dingdong battle for the Par- 
liamentary representation of Kings Lynn with an opponent 
universally known as Tommy Bowles, a gallant champion of 
the army. Commander Bellairs was a Liberal and Tommy 
Bowles a Conservative; but, after a while, Commander Bel- 
lairs became a Conservative, and Tommy Bowles became a 
Liberal. They were thus enabled to continue their duel at 
Kings Lynn. In 1902 Commander Bellairs was halfway on the 
journey from the old party to the new one. And there was 



W. A. S. Hewins, the director of the School of Economics. 
Hewins once told me that he had been brought up a Roman 
Catholic, but had since replaced faith in the Church by faith 
in the British Empire. He was passionately opposed to Free 
Trade, and was successfully engaged in converting Joseph 
Chamberlain to Tariff Reform. I know how large a part he 
had in this conversion, as he showed me the correspondence 
between himself and Chamberlain before Chamberlain had 
come out publicly for Tariff Reform. 

I had never heard of Wells until Webb mentioned him as a 
man whom he had invited to become a Co-efficient. Webb in- 
formed me that Wells was a young man who, for the mo- 
ment, wrote stories in the style of Jules Verne, but hoped, 
when these made his name and fortune, to devote himself to 
more serious work. I very soon found that I was too much 
out of sympathy with most of the Co-efficients to be able to 
profit by the discussions or contribute usefully to them. All 
the members except Wells and myself were Imperialists and 
looked forward without too much apprehension to a war 
with Germany. I was drawn to Wells by our common antip- 
athy to this point of view. He was a Socialist, and at that 
time, though not later, considered great wars a folly. Matters 
came to a head when Sir Edward Grey, then in Opposition, 
advocated what became the policy of the Entente with 
France and Russia, which was adopted by the Conservative 
Government some two years later, and solidified by Sir Ed- 
ward Grey when he became Foreign Secretary. I spoke ve- 
hemently against this policy, which 1 felt led straight to world 
war, but no one except Wells agreed with me. 

As a result of the political sympathy between us, I invited 
Wells and Mrs. Wells to visit me at Bagley Wood, near Ox- 
ford, where I then lived. The visit was not altogether a suc- 
cess. Wells, in our presence, accused Mrs. Wells of a Cockney 
accent, an accusation which (so it seemed to me) could more 

H. G. WELLS 83 

justly be brought against him. More serious was a matter 
arising out of a book that he had lately written called In the 
Days of the Comet. In this book the earth passes through the 
tail of a comet which contains a gas that makes everybody 
sensible. The victory of good sense is shown in two ways: a 
war between England and Germany, which had been raging, 
is stopped by mutual consent; and everybody takes to free 
love. Wells was assailed in the Press, not for his pacifism, but 
for his advocacy of free love. He replied somewhat heatedly 
that he had not advocated free love, but had merely prophe- 
sied possible effects of new ingredients in the atmosphere 
without saying whether he thought these effects good or bad. 
This seemed to me disingenuous, and I asked him, "Why did 
you first advocate free love and then say you hadn't?" He 
replied that he had not yet saved enough money out of royal- 
ties to be able to live on the interest, and that he did not pro- 
pose to advocate free love publicly until he had done so. I 
was in those days perhaps unduly strict, and this answer dis- 
pleased me. 

After this I did not see much of him until the First World 
War had ended. In spite of his previous attitude about war 
with Germany, he became exceedingly bellicose in 1914. He 
invented the phrase about "a war to end war." He said that 
he was "enthusiastic for this war against Prussian militarism." 
In the very first days, he stated that the whole Prussian mili- 
tary machine was paralyzed before the defenses of Liege 
which fell a day or two later. Sidney Webb, although he 
agreed with Wells about the war, had ceased to be on good 
terms with him, partly from moral disapproval, partly be- 
cause Wells undertook an elaborate campaign to win from 
Webb the leadership of the Fabian Society. Wells's hostility 
to the Webbs was expressed in several novels, and was never 

After the end of the first war, my relations with Wells be- 


came again more friendly. I admired his Outline of History, 
especially its earlier parts, and found myself in agreement 
with his opinions on a great many subjects. He had immense 
energy and a capacity to organize great masses of material. 
He was also a very vivacious and amusing talker. His eyes 
were very bright, and in an argument one felt that he was 
taking an impersonal interest in the subject rather than a per- 
sonal interest in his interlocutor. I used to visit him at week- 
ends at his house in Essex where, on Sunday afternoons, he 
would take his house party to visit his neighbor Lady War- 
wick. She was an active supporter of the Labor Party, and 
her park contained a lake surrounded by huge green porce- 
lain frogs given her by Edward VII. It was a little difficult to 
adapt one's conversation to both these aspects of her person- 

Wells derived his importance from quantity rather than 
quality, though one must admit that he excelled in certain 
qualities. He was very good at imagining mass behavior in un- 
usual circumstances, for example in The War of the Worlds. 
Some of his novels depict convincingly heroes not unlike 
himself. Politically, he was one of those who made Socialism 
respectable in England. He had a very considerable influence 
upon the generation that followed him, not only as regards 
politics but also as regards matters of personal ethics. His 
knowledge, though nowhere profound, was very extensive. 
He had, however, certain weaknesses which somewhat inter- 
fered with his position as a sage. He found unpopularity very 
hard to endure, and would make concessions to popular 
clamor which interfered with the consistency of his teaching. 
He had a sympathy with the masses which made him liable to 
share their occasional hysterias. When he was worried by ac- 
cusations of immorality or infidelity, he would write some- 
what second-rate stories designed to rebut such charges, such 

H. G. WELLS 85 

as The Soul of a Bishop or the story of the husband and wife 
who are beginning to quarrel and, to stop this process, spend 
the winter in Labrador and are reconciled by a common fight 
against a bear. The last time I saw him, which was shortly 
before his death, he spoke with great earnestness of the harm 
done by divisions on the Left, and I gathered, though he did 
not explicitly say so, that he thought Socialists ought to co- 
operate with Communists more than they were doing. This 
had not been his view in the heyday of his vigor, when he 
used to make fun of Marx's beard and exhort people not to 
adopt the new Marxist orthodoxy. 

Wells's importance was primarily as a liberator of thought 
and imagination. He was able to construct pictures of possible 
societies, both attractive and unattractive, of a sort that en- 
couraged the young to envisage possibilities which otherwise 
they would not have thought of. Sometimes he does this in a 
very illuminating way. His Country of the Blind is a some- 
what pessimistic restatement in modern language of Plato's 
allegory of the cave. His various Utopias, though perhaps not 
in themselves very solid, are calculated to start trains of 
thought which may prove fruitful. He is always rational, and 
avoids various forms of superstition to which modern minds 
are prone. His belief in scientific method is healthful and in- 
vigorating. His general optimism, although the state of the 
world makes it difficult to sustain, is much more likely to 
lead to good results than the somewhat lazy pessimism which 
is becoming all too common. In spite of some reservations, I 
think one should regard Wells as having been an important 
force toward sane and constructive thinking both as regards 
social systems and as regards personal relations. I hope he may 
have successors, though I do not at the moment know who 
they will be. 


Joseph Conrad 

I MADE the acquaintance of Joseph Conrad in September 
1913, through our common friend Lady Ottoline Mor- 
rell. I had been for many years an admirer of his books, 
but should not have ventured to seek acquaintance without 
an introduction, I traveled down to his house near Ashford 
in Kent in a state of somewhat anxious expectation. My first 
impression was one of surprise. He spoke English with a very 
strong foreign accent, and nothing in his demeanor in any 
way suggested the sea. He was an aristocratic Polish gentle- 
man to his finger tips. His feeling for the sea, and for Eng- 
land, was one of romantic love love from a certain distance, 
sufficient to leave the romance untarnished. His love for the 
sea began at a very early age. When he told his parents that he 
wished for a career as a sailor, they urged him to go into the 
Austrian navy, but he wanted adventure and tropical seas 
and strange rivers surrounded by dark forests; and the Aus- 
trian navy offered him no scope for these desires. His family 
were horrified at his seeking a career in the English merchant 
marine, but his determination was inflexible. 

He was, as anyone may see from his books, a very rigid 
moralist and politically far from sympathetic with revolu- 
tionaries. He and I were in most of our opinions by no means 



in agreement, but in something very fundamental we were 
extraordinarily at one. 

My relation to Joseph Conrad was unlike any other that I 
have ever had. I saw him seldom, and not over a long period 
of years. In the outworks of our lives, we were almost stran- 
gers, but we shared a certain outlook on human life and 
human destiny, which, from the very first, made a bond of ex- 
treme strength. I may perhaps be pardoned for quoting a sen- 
tence from a letter that he wrote to me very soon after we 
had become acquainted. I should feel that modesty forbids 
the quotation except for the fact that it expresses so exactly 
what I felt about him. What he expressed and I equally felt 
was, in his words, "A deep admiring affection which, if you 
were never to see me again and forgot my existence tomor- 
row, would be unalterably yours usque ad finem" 

Of all that he had written I admired most the terrible story 
called The Heart of Darkness, in which a rather weak idealist 
is driven mad by horror of the tropical forest and loneliness 
among savages. This story expresses, I think, most completely 
his philosophy of life. I felt, though I do not know whether 
he would have accepted such an image, that he thought of 
civilized and morally tolerable human life as a dangerous 
walk on a thin crust of barely cooled lava which at any mo- 
ment might break and let the unwary sink into fiery depths. 
He was very conscious of the various forms of passionate 
madness to which men are prone, and it was this that gave 
him such a profound belief in the importance of discipline. 
His point of view, one might perhaps say, was the antithesis 
of Rousseau's: "Man is born in chains, but he can become 
free." He becomes free, so I believe Conrad would have said, 
not by letting loose his impulses, not by being casual and un- 
controlled, but by subduing wayward impulse to a dominant 


He was not much interested in political systems, though he 
had some strong political feelings. The strongest of these 
were love of England and hatred of Russia, of which both 
are expressed in The Secret Agent: and the hatred of Russia, 
both Czarist and revolutionary, is set forth with great power 
in Under Western Eyes. His dislike of Russia was that which 
was traditional in Poland. It went so far that he would not 
allow merit to either Tolstoy or Dostoievsky. Turgeniev, he 
told me once, was the only Russian novelist he admired. 

Except for love of England and hatred of Russia, politics 
did not much concern him. What interested him was the in- 
dividual human soul faced with the indifference of nature, 
and often with the hostility of man, and subject to inner 
struggles with passions both good and bad that led toward 
destruction. Tragedies of loneliness occupied a great part of 
his thought and feeling. One of his most typical stories is Ty- 
phoon. In this story the captain, who is a simple soul, pulls his 
ship through by unshakable courage and grim determination. 
When the storm is over, he writes a long letter to his wife 
telling about it. In his account his own part is, to him, per- 
fectly simple. He has merely performed his captain's duty as, 
of course, anyone would expect. But the reader, through his 
narrative, becomes aware of all that he has done and dared 
and endured. The letter, before he sends it off, is read surrep- 
titiously by his steward, but is never read by anyone else at 
all because his wife finds it boring and throws it away unread. 

The two things that seem most to occupy Conrad's imagi- 
nation are loneliness and fear of what is strange. An Outcast 
of the Islands like The Heart of Darkness is concerned with 
fear of what is strange. Both come together in the extraordi- 
narily moving story called Amy Foster. In this story a South- 
Slav peasant, on his way to America, is the sole survivor of 
the wreck of his ship, and is cast away in a Kentish village. 


All the village fears and ill treats him, except Amy Foster, a 
dull, plain girl who brings him bread when he is starving and 
finally marries him. But she, too, when, in fever, her hus- 
band reverts to his native language, is seized with a fear of his 
strangeness, snatches up their child and abandons him. He 
dies alone and hopeless. I have wondered at times how much 
of this man's loneliness Conrad had felt among the English 
and had suppressed by a stern effort of will. 

Conrad's point of view was far from modern. In the mod- 
ern world there are two philosophies: the one, which stems 
from Rousseau, and sweeps aside discipline as unnecessary; 
the other, which finds its fullest. expression in totalitarianism, 
which thinks of discipline as essentially imposed from with- 
out. Conrad adhered to the older tradition, that discipline 
should come from within. He despised indiscipline, and hated 
discipline that was merely external. 

In all this I found myself closely in agreement with him. At 
our very first meeting, we talked with continually increasing 
intimacy. We seemed to sink through layer after layer of 
what was superficial, till gradually both reached the central 
fire. It was an experience unlike any other that I have known. 
We looked into each other's eyes, half appalled and half in- 
toxicated to find ourselves together in such a region. The 
emotion was as intense as passionate love, and at the same 
time all-embracing. I came away bewildered, and hardly able 
to find my way among ordinary affairs. 

I saw nothing of Conrad during the war or after it until my 
return from China in 1921. When my first son was born in 
that year I wished Conrad to be as nearly his godfather as 
was possible without a formal ceremony. I wrote to Conrad 
saying: "I wish, with your permission, to call my son John 
Conrad. My father was called John, my grandfather was 
called John, and my great-grandfather was called John; and 


Conrad is a name in which I see merits." He accepted the po- 
sition and duly presented my son with the cup which is usual 
on such occasions. 

I did not see much of him, as I lived most of the year in 
Cornwall, and his health was failing. But I had some charm- 
ing letters from him, especially one about my book on China. 
He wrote: "I have always liked the Chinese, even those that 
tried to kill me (and some other people) in the yard of a pri- 
vate house in Chantabun, even (but not so much) the fellow 
who stole all my money one night in Bangkok, but brushed 
and folded my clothes neatly for me to dress in the morning, 
before vanishing into the depths of Siam. I also received many 
kindnesses at the hands of various Chinese. This with the ad- 
dition of an evening's conversation with the secretary of His 
Excellency Tseng on the verandah of a hotel and a perfunc- 
tory study of a poem, 'The Heathen Chinee' is all I know 
about Chinese. But after reading your extremely interesting 
view of the Chinese Problem I take a gloomy view of the 
future of their country." He went on to say that my views of 
the future of China "strike a chill into one's soul," the more 
so, he said, as I pinned my hopes on international socialism 
"The sort of thing," he commented, "to which I cannot at- 
tach any sort of definite meaning. I have never been able to 
find in any man's book or any man's talk anything convincing 
enough to stand up for a moment against my deep-seated 
sense of fatality governing this man-inhabited world." He 
went on to say that although man has taken to flying, "He 
doesn't fly like an eagle, he flies like a beetle. And you must 
have noticed how ugly, ridiculous and fatuous is the flight of 
a beetle." In these pessimistic remarks, I felt that he was 
showing a deeper wisdom than I had shown in my somewhat 
artificial hopes for a happy issue in China. It must be said that 
so far events have proved him right. 


This letter was my last contact with him. I never again saw 
him to speak to. Once I saw him across the street, in earnest 
conversation with a man I did not know, standing outside the 
door of what had been my grandmother's house, but after her 
death had become the Arts Club. I did not like to interrupt 
what seemed a serious conversation, and I went away. When 
he died, shortly afterward, I was sorry I had not been bolder. 
The house is gone, demolished by Hitler. Conrad, I suppose, 
is in process of being forgotten. But his intense and passionate 
nobility shines in my memory like a star seen from the bot- 
tom of a well. I wish I could make his light shine for others 
as it shone for me. 


George Santayana 

I FIRST met Santayana on a roof in Temple Gardens one 
very warm evening in June 1893. After a day of swel- 
tering heat, the temperature had become delicious and 
the view of London was intoxicating. I had just finished the 
Mathematical Tripos after ten years of arduous preparation 
and was about to embark on the study of philosophy. My 
brother, through whom I came to know Santayana, informed 
me that he was a philosopher. I therefore looked upon him 
with great reverence, all the more so as my mood was one of 
expansive liberation. He had at that time large lustrous eyes 
of considerable beauty. I listened to him with respect, since 
he seemed to embody a difficult synthesis, namely, that of 
America and Spain. I cannot, however, remember anything 
of his conversation on that occasion. 

As I came to know him better I found some sympathy and 
much divergence. He professed a certain detachment which 
was not wholly sincere. Although both his parents were 
Spanish, he had been brought up in Boston and taught philos- 
ophy at Harvard. Nevertheless he felt himself always an exile 
from Spain. In the Spanish-American War he found himself 
passionately on the Spanish side, which is perhaps not surpris- 
ing, as his father had been Governor of Manila. Whenever his 



Spanish patriotism was involved, his usual air of detachment 
disappeared. He used to spend the summers at his sister's 
house in the ancient city of Avila, and he described to me 
once how the ladies there would sit at their windows, flirting 
with such male acquaintances as passed by, and would make 
up for this pastime afterward by going to confession. I rashly 
remarked: "It sounds a rather vapid existence/' He drew him- 
self up, and replied sharply: "They spend their lives in the 
two greatest things: love and religion." 

He could admit into the realms of his admirations the an- 
cient Greeks and the modern Italians, even Mussolini. But he 
could feel no sincere respect for anyone who came from 
north of the Alps. He held that only the Mediterranean peo- 
ples are capable of contemplation, and that therefore they 
alone can be true philosophers. German and British philoso- 
phies he regarded as the stumbling efforts of immature races. 
He liked, in northern countries, athletes and men of affairs. 
He was a close friend of my brother, who made no rash at- 
tempts to penetrate the arcana. But toward me, as toward 
other northern philosophers, his attitude was one of gentle 
pity for having attempted something too high for us. This, 
however, never interfered with pleasant relations, as my pa- 
triotic self-confidence was quite equal to his. 

Santayana in private life was very similar to what he was 
in his books. He was suave, meticulous in his ways, and very 
seldom excited. A few days before the Battle of the Marne, 
when the capture of Paris by the Germans seemed imminent, 
he remarked to me: "I think I must go to Paris, because my 
winter underclothes are there, and I should not like the Ger- 
mans to get them. I have also left there the manuscript of a 
book on which I have been working for the last ten years; 
but I don't mind so much about that." However, the Battle 
of the Marne obviated the necessity of this journey. 


One evening in Cambridge, after I had been seeing him ev- 
ery day for some time, he remarked to me: "I am going to 
Seville tomorrow. I wish to be in a place where people do not 
restrain their passions." I suppose this attitude is not surpris- 
ing in one who had few passions to restrain. 

He relates in his autobiography one occasion when my 
brother succeeded in rousing him to a certain warmth of 
feeling. My brother had a yacht on which Santayana was to 
accompany him. The yacht was moored and could only be 
approached by a very narrow plank. My brother ran lightly 
across it, but Santayana was afraid of falling into the mud. 
My brother reached out a hand to him, but unfortunately 
Santayana's balance was so bad that both fell with a splash 
into the semiliquid mire of the river bank. Santayana relates 
with some horror that on this occasion my brother used 
words which he would not have expected an earl to know. 

There was always something rather prim about Santayana. 
His clothes were always neat, and even in country lanes he 
wore patent-leather button boots. I think a person of suffi- 
cient intelligence might perhaps have guessed these character- 
istics from his literary style. 

Although not a believing Catholic, he strongly favored the 
Catholic religion in all political and social ways. He did not 
see any reason to wish that the populace should believe some- 
thing true. What he desired for the populace was some myth 
to which he could give aesthetic approval. This attitude nat- 
urally made him very hostile to Protestantism, and made peo- 
ple with a Protestant way of feeling critical of him. William 
James condemned his doctor's thesis as "the perfection of rot- 
tenness." And, although the two men were colleagues for a 
great many years, neither ever succeeded in thinking well of 
the other. 

For my part, I was never able to take Santayana very sen- 


ously as a technical philosopher, although I thought that he 
served a useful function by bringing to bear, as a critic, points 
of view which are now uncommon. The American dress in 
which his writing appeared somewhat concealed the ex- 
tremely reactionary character of his thinking. Not only did 
he, as a Spaniard, side politically with the Church in all its at- 
tempts to bolster up old traditions in that country, but, as a 
philosopher, he reverted in great measure to the scholasticism 
of the thirteenth century. He did not present this doctrine 
straightforwardly as neo-Thomists do; he insinuated it under 
various aliases, so that it was easy for a reader not to know 
where his opinions came from. It would not be fair to suggest 
that his views were completely those of medieval scholastics. 
He took rather more from Plato than St. Thomas did. But I 
think that he and St. Thomas, if they could have met, would 
have understood each other very well. 

His two chief works in pure philosophy were The Life of 
Reason, published in 1905, and Realms of Being, published 
between 1927 and 1940. He deals with the life of reason un- 
der five headings: reason in common sense, in society, in reli- 
gion, in art, and in science. I do not myself feel that this work 
is very likely to attract a reader to the sort of life which San- 
tayana considers rational. It is too quiet, too much that of a 
mere spectator, too destitute of passion, which, though it may 
have to be controlled, seems, to me at least, an essential ele- 
ment in any life worth living. His Realms of Being, which 
was his last important philosophical work, deals successively 
with essence, matter, truth, and spirit. In this, as in his other 
philosophical books, he does not trouble to argue, and much 
of what he says, particularly as regards essence, ignores much 
work which most modern philosophers would consider rele- 
vant. He completely ignored modern logic, which has thrown 
much new light on the old problem of universals which oc- 


cupied a very large part of the attention of the scholastics, 
Santayana's Realm of Essence seems to presuppose, at any 
rate in some sense, the reality of universals. It would be rash 
to say that this doctrine is false, but it is characteristic of San- 
tayana that he calmly assumes its truth without taking the 
trouble to offer any arguments in its favor. 

Although most of his active life was spent as a professor of 
philosophy at Harvard, he was perhaps more important from 
a literary than from a philosophic point of view. His style, to 
my mind, is not quite what a style ought to be. Like his 
patent-leather boots, it is too smooth and polished. The im- 
pression one gets in reading him is that of floating down a 
smooth-flowing river, so broad that you can seldom see either 
bank; but, when from time to time a promontory comes 
into view, you are surprised that it is a new one, as you have 
been unconscious of movement. I find myself, in reading him, 
approving each sentence in an almost somnambulistic man- 
ner, but quite unable, after a few pages, to remember what it 
was all about. 

Nevertheless, I owe him certain philosophical debts. When 
I was young, I agreed with G. E. Moore in believing in the 
objectivity of good and evil. Santayana's criticism, in a book 
called Winds of Doctrine, caused me to abandon this view, 
though I have never been able to be as bland and comfortable 
without it as he was. 

He wrote a good deal of literary criticism, some of it excel- 
lent. There was a book called Three Philosophical Poets 
about Lucretius, Dante, and Goethe, He was rather hurt be- 
cause I said that he was better about the two Italian poets 
than about the German one. His writing on Goethe seemed 
to me a tour de force in which his intellectual approval was 
continually at war with his temperamental disgust. I found 


the latter more interesting than the former, and wished he 
had given it free rein. 

He had a considerable affection for England, and his Solil- 
oquies in England is a book which any patriotic English per- 
son can read with pleasure. He wrote a novel in which my 
brother (for whom he had a considerable affection) appears 
as the villain. He wrote an autobiography in several parts, 
which is chiefly interesting as exhibiting the clash between his 
Spanish temperament and his Boston environment. He used to 
boast that his mother, as a widow in Boston, worried her 
New England friends by never being busy about anything; 
and, when they came on a deputation to ask her how she got 
through the time, she replied : "Well, I'll tell you. In summer 
I try to keep cool, and in winter I try to keep warm." Ad- 
miration for this answer prevented him from feeling at home 
in New England. 

He wrote a great deal about American culture, of which he 
had no high opinion. He gave an address to the University of 
California called The Genteel Tradition in American Philos- 
ophy, the gist of which was to the effect that academic Amer- 
ica is alien to the spirit of the country, which, he said, is vig- 
orous but Philistine. It had seemed to me, in my wanderings 
through American universities, that they would be more in 
harmony with the spirit of the country if they were housed 
in skyscrapers and not in pseudo-Gothic buildings ranged 
round a campus. This was also Santayana's view. I felt, how- 
ever, a certain difference. Santayana enjoyed being aloof and 
contemptuous, whereas I found this attitude, when forced 
upon me, extremely painful. Aloofness and facile contempt 
were his defects, and because of them, although he could be 
admired, he was a person whom it was difficult to love. 

But it is only fair to counterbalance this judgment with his 


judgment of me. He says: "Even when Russell's insight is 
keenest, the very intensity of his vision concentrates it too 
much. The focus is microscopic; he sees one thing at a time 
with extraordinary clearness, or one strain in history or poli- 
tics; and the vivid realization of that element blinds him to 
the rest." And he accuses me, oddly enough, of religious con- 
servatism. I will leave the reader to form his own judgment 
on this matter. 

Santayana never seems to have felt that his loyalty to the 
past, if he could have caused it to become general, would 
have produced a lifeless world in which no new good thing 
could grow up. If he had lived in the time of Galileo he 
would have pointed out the literary inferiority of Galileo to 
Lucretius. But Lucretius was setting forth a doctrine already 
several centuries old, and I doubt whether the works of De- 
mocritus and Epicurus which set forth the doctrine when it 
was new, were as aesthetically pleasing as the poem of Lu- 
cretius. But, perhaps fortunately for them, their works are 
lost and my opinion can be no more than a guess. What re- 
mains indubitable is that the new is never as mellow as the 
old, and that therefore the worship of mellowness is incom- 
patible with new excellence. It is for this reason that San- 
tayana's merits are literary rather than philosophical. 


Alfred North Whitehead 

MY FIRST contact with Whitehead, or rather with his 
father, was in 1877. I had been told that the earth 
is round, but trusting to the evidence of the senses, 
I refused to believe it. The vicar of the parish, who happened 
to be Whitehead's father, was called in to persuade me. Cleri- 
cal authority so far prevailed as to make me think an experi- 
mental test worth while, and I started to dig a hole in the 
hopes of emerging at the antipodes. When they told me this 
was useless, my doubts revived. 

I had no further contact with Whitehead until the year 
1890 when as a freshman at Cambridge, I attended his lec- 
tures on statics. He told the class to study article 35 in the 
textbook. Then he turned to me and said, "You needn't study 
it, because you know it already." I had quoted it by number 
in the scholarship examination ten months earlier. He won 
my heart by remembering this fact. His kindness did not end 
there. On the basis of the scholarship examination he told all 
the cleverest undergraduates to look out for me, so that 
within a week I had made the acquaintance of all of them 
and many of them became my lifelong friends. 

Throughout the gradual transition from a student to an in- 
dependent writer, I profited by Whitehead's guidance. The 



turning point was my Fellowship dissertation in 1895. I went 
to see him the day before the result was announced and he 
criticized rny work somewhat severely, though quite justly. 
I was very crestfallen and decided to go away from Cam- 
bridge without waiting for the announcement next day. (I 
changed my mind, however, when James Ward praised my 
dissertation.) After I knew that I had been elected to a Fel- 
lowship, Mrs. Whitehead took him to task for the severity of 
his criticism, but he defended himself by saying that it was 
the last time that he would be able to speak to me as a pupil. 
When, in 1900, I began to have ideas of my own, I had the 
good fortune to persuade him that they were not without 
value. This was the basis of our ten years' collaboration on a 
big book no part of which is wholly due to either. 

In England, Whitehead was regarded only as a mathema- 
tician, and it was left to America to discover him as a philoso- 
pher. He and I disagreed in philosophy, so that collaboration 
was no longer possible, and after he went to America I natu- 
rally saw much less of him. We began to drift apart during 
the First World War when he completely disagreed with my 
Pacifist position. In our differences on this subject he was 
more tolerant than I was, and it was much more my fault 
than his that these differences caused a diminution in the 
closeness of our friendship. 

In the last months of the war his younger son, who was 
only just eighteen, was killed. This was an appalling grief to 
him, and it was only by an immense effort of moral discipline 
that he was able to go on with his work. The pain of this loss 
had a great deal to do with turning his thoughts to philosophy 
and with causing him to seek ways of escaping from belief 
in a merely mechanistic universe. His philosophy was very 
obscure, and there was much in it that I never succeeded in 
understanding. He had always had a leaning toward Kant, of 


whom I thought ill, and when he began to develop his own 
philosophy he was considerably influenced by Bergson. He 
was impressed by the aspect of unity in the universe, and 
considered that it is only through this aspect that scientific in- 
ferences can be justified. My temperament led me in the op- 
posite direction, but I doubt whether pure reason could have 
decided which of us was more nearly in the right. Those who 
prefer his outlook might say that while he aimed at bringing 
comfort to plain people I aimed at bringing discomfort to 
philosophers; one who favored my outlook might retort that 
while he pleased the philosophers, I amused the plain people. 
However that may be, we went our separate ways, though 
affection survived to the last. 

Whitehead was a man of extraordinarily wide interests, and 
his knowledge of history used to amaze me. At one time I 
discovered by chance that he was using that very serious and 
rather out-of-the-way work, Paolo Sarpi's History of the 
Council of Trent, as a bed book. Whatever historical sub- 
jects came up he could always supply some illuminating fact, 
such, for example, as the connection of Burke 's political opin- 
ions with his interests in the City, and the relation of the Hus- 
site heresy to the Bohemian silver mines. No one ever men- 
tioned this to me again until a few years ago, when I was sent 
a learned monograph on the subject. I had no idea where 
Whitehead had got his information. But I have lately learned 
from Mr. John Kennair Peel that Whitehead's information 
probably came from Count Liitzow's Bohemia: an historical 
sketch. Whitehead had delightful humor and great gentleness. 
When I was an undergraduate he was given the nickname of 
"the Cherub," which those who knew him in later life 
would think unduly disrespectful, but which at the time suited 
him. His family came from Kent and had been clergymen 
ever since about the time of the landing of St. Augustine in 


that county. In a book by Lucien Price recording his dia- 
logues in America, Whitehead describes the prevalence of 
smuggling in the Isle of Thanet at the beginning of the nine- 
teenth century when brandy and wine used to be hidden in 
the vaults of the church with the approbation of the vicar: 
"And more than once," he remarked, "when word was 
brought during service that officers were coming up the road, 
the whole congregation adjourned to get that liquor out of 
the way assisted by the vicar. That is evidence of how inti- 
mately the Established Church shares the life of the nation." 
The Isle of Thanet dominated the Whitehead that I knew. 
His grandfather had migrated to it from the Isle of Sheppey 
and, according to Whitehead, was said by his friends to have 
composed a hymn containing the following sublime stanza: 

Lord of the Lambkin and the Lion, 
Lord of Jerusalem and Mount Zion, 
Lord of the Cornet and the Planet, 
Lord of Sheppey and the Isle of Thanet! 

I am glad that my first meeting with him was in the Isle of 
Thanet, for that region had a much more intimate place in his 
makeup than Cambridge ever had. I felt that Lucien Price's 
book ought to be called Whitehead in Partibus, "Partibus" 
being not everything outside England, but everything outside 
the Isle of Thanet. 

He used to relate with amusement that my grandfather, 
who was much exercised by the spread of Roman Catholi- 
cism, adjured Whitehead's sister never to desert the Church 
of England. What amused him was that the contingency was 
so very improbable. Whitehead's theological opinions were 
not orthodox, but something of the vicarage atmosphere re- 
mained in his ways of feeling and came out in his later phil- 
osophical writings. 


He was a very modest man, and his most extreme boast 
was that he did try to have the qualities of his defects. He 
never minded telling stories against himself. There were two 
old ladies in Cambridge who were sisters and whose manners 
suggested that they came straight out of Cranford. They 
were, in fact, advanced and even daring in their opinions, and 
were in the forefront of every movement of reform. White- 
head used to relate somewhat ruefully, how when he first 
met them he was misled by their exterior and thought it 
would be fun to shock them a little. But when he advanced 
some slightly radical opinion they said, "Oh, Mr. Whitehead, 
we are so pleased to hear you say that," showing that they 
had hitherto viewed him as a pillar of reaction. 

His capacity for concentration on work was quite extraor- 
dinary. One hot summer's day, when I was staying with him 
at Grantchester, our friend Crompton Davies arrived and I 
took him into the garden to say how-do-you-do to his host. 
Whitehead was sitting writing mathematics. Davies and I 
stood in front of him at a distance of no more than a yard 
and watched him covering page after page with symbols. He 
never saw us, and after a time we went away with a feeling 
of awe. 

Those who knew Whitehead well became aware of many 
things in him which did not appear in more casual contacts. 
Socially he appeared kindly, rational, and imperturbable, but 
he was not in fact imperturbable, and was certainly not that 
inhuman monster "the rational man." His devotion to his 
wife and his children was profound and passionate. He was at 
all times deeply aware of the importance of religion. As a 
young man, he was all but converted to Roman Catholicism 
by the influence of Cardinal Newman. His later philosophy 
gave him some part of what he wanted from religion. Like 
other men who lead extremely disciplined lives, he was liable 


to distressing soliloquies, and when he thought he was alone 
he would mutter abuse of himself for his supposed shortcom- 
ings. The early years of his marriage were much clouded by 
financial anxieties, but, although he found this very difficult 
to bear, he never let it turn him aside from work that was 
important but not lucrative. 

He had practical abilities which at the time when I knew 
him best did not find very much scope. He had a kind of 
shrewdness which was surprising and which enabled him to get 
his way on committees in a manner astonishing to those who 
thought of him as wholly abstract and unworldly. He might 
have been an able administrator but for one defect, which 
was a complete inability to answer letters. I once wrote a let- 
ter to him on a mathematical point, as to which I urgently 
needed an answer for an article I was writing against Poin- 
care. He did not answer, so I wrote again. He still did not 
answer, so I telegraphed. As he was still silent, I sent a reply- 
paid telegram. But in the end, I had to travel down to Broad- 
stairs to get the answer. His friends gradually got to know 
this peculiarity, and on the rare occasions when any of them 
got a letter from him they would all assemble to congratulate 
the recipient. He justified himself by saying that if he an- 
swered letters, he would have no time for original work. I 
think the justification was complete and unanswerable. 

Whitehead was extraordinarily perfect as a teacher. He 
took a personal interest in those with whom he had to deal 
and knew both their strong and their weak points. He would 
elicit from a pupil the best of which a pupil was capable. He 
was never repressive, or sarcastic, or superior, or any of the 
things that inferior teachers like to be. I think that in all the 
abler young men with whom he came in contact he inspired, 
as he did in me, a very real and lasting affection. 


Sidney and Beatrice Webb 

SIDNEY and Beatrice Webb, whom I knew intimately for 
a number of years, at times even sharing a house with 
them, were the most completely married couple that I 
have ever known. They were, however, very averse from 
any romantic view of love or marriage. Marriage was a social 
institution designed to fit instinct into a legal framework. 
During the first ten years of their marriage, Mrs. Webb 
would remark at intervals, "as Sidney always says, marriage 
is the wastepaper basket of the emotions." In later years there 
was a slight change. They would generally have a couple to 
stay with them for the weekend, and on Sunday afternoon 
they would go for a brisk walk, Sidney with the lady and 
Beatrice with the gentleman. At a certain point, Sidney would 
remark, "I know just what Beatrice is saying at this moment. 
She is saying, 'as Sidney always says, marriage is the waste- 
paper basket of the emotions.' " Whether Sidney ever really 
did say this is not known. 

I knew Sidney before his marriage. But he was then much 
less than half of what the two of them afterward became. 
Their collaboration was quite dovetailed. I used to think, 
though this was perhaps an undue simplification, that she had 
the ideas and he did the work. He was perhaps the most in- 



dustrious man that I have ever known. When they were writ- 
ing a book on local government, they would send circulars to 
all local government officials throughout the country asking 
questions and pointing out that the official in question could 
legally purchase their forthcoming book out of the rates. 
When I let my house to them, the postman, who was an ar- 
dent Socialist, did not know whether to be more honored by 
serving them or annoyed at having to deliver a thousand an- 
swers a day to their circulars. Webb was originally a second 
division clerk in the Civil Service, but by immense industry 
succeeded in rising into the first division. He was somewhat 
earnest, and did not like jokes on sacred subjects such as po- 
litical theory. On one occasion I remarked to him that de- 
mocracy has at least one merit, namely, that a member of 
Parliament cannot be stupider than his constituents, for the 
more stupid he is, the more stupid they were to elect him. 
Webb was seriously annoyed and said bitingly, "That is the 
sort of argument I don't like." 

Mrs. Webb had a wider range of interests than her husband. 
She took considerable interest in individual human beings, 
not only when they could be useful She was deeply religious 
without belonging to any recognized brand of orthodoxy, 
though as a Socialist she preferred the Church of England 
because it was a State institution. She was one of nine sisters, 
the daughters of a self-made man named Potter who acquired 
most of his fortune by building huts for the armies in the 
Crimea. He was a disciple of Herbert Spencer, and Mrs. 
Webb was the most notable product of that philosopher's 
theories of education. I am sorry to say that my mother, 
who was her neighbor in the country, described her as a 
"social butterfly," but one may hope that she would have 
modified this judgment if she had known Mrs. Webb in later 
life. When she became interested in socialism she decided to 


sample the Fabians, especially the three most distinguished, 
who were Webb, Shaw, and Graham Wallas. There was 
something like the Judgment of Paris with the sexes reversed, 
and it was Sidney who emerged as the counterpart of Aphro- 

Webb had been entirely dependent upon his earnings, 
whereas Beatrice had inherited a competence from her father. 
Beatrice had the mentality of the governing class, which Sid- 
ney had not. Seeing that they had enough to live on without 
earning, they decided to devote their lives to research and to 
the higher branches of propaganda. In both they were amaz- 
ingly successful. Their books are a tribute to their industry, 
and the School of Economics is a tribute to Sidney's skill. I do 
not think that Sidney's abilities would have been nearly as 
fruitful as they were if they had not been backed by Bea- 
trice's self-confidence. I asked her once whether in her youth 
she had ever had any feeling of shyness. "Oh no," she said, 
"if I ever felt inclined to be timid as I was going into a room 
full of people, I would say to myself, 'You're the cleverest 
member of one of the cleverest families in the cleverest class 
of the cleverest nation in the world, why should you be 
frightened?" 7 

I both liked and admired Mrs. Webb, although I disagreed 
with her about many very important matters. I admired first 
and foremost her ability, which was very great. I admired 
next her integrity: she lived for public objects and was never 
deflected by personal ambition, although she was not devoid 
of it. I liked her because she was a warm and kind friend to 
those for whom she had a personal affection, but I disagreed 
with her about religion, about imperialism, and about the 
worship of the State. This last was of the essence of Fabian- 
ism. It had led both the Webbs and also Shaw into what I 
thought an undue tolerance of Mussolini and Hitler, and ulti- 


mately into a rather absurd adulation of the Soviet govern- 

But nobody is all of a piece, not even the Webbs. I once 
remarked to Shaw that Webb seemed to me somewhat defi- 
cient in kindly feeling. "No," Shaw replied, "you are quite 
mistaken. Webb and I were once in a tram car in Holland eat- 
ing biscuits out of a bag. A handcuffed criminal was brought 
into the tram by policemen. All the other passengers shrank 
away in horror, but Webb went up to the prisoner and of- 
fered him biscuits." I remember this story whenever I find 
myself becoming unduly critical of either Webb or Shaw. 

There were people whom the Webbs hated. They hated 
Wells, both because he offended Mrs. Webb's rigid Victorian 
morality and because he tried to dethrone Webb from his 
reign over the Fabian Society. They hated Ramsay Mac- 
Donald from very early days. The least hostile thing that I 
ever heard either of them say about him was at the time of the 
formation of the first Labor Government, when Mrs. Webb 
said he was a very good substitute for a leader. 

Their political history was rather curious. At first they 
operated with the Conservatives because Mrs. Webb was 
pleased with Arthur Balfour for being willing to give more 
public money to Church Schools. When the Conservatives 
fell in 1906, the Webbs made some slight and ineffectual ef- 
forts to collaborate with the Liberals. But at last it occurred to 
them that as Socialists they might feel more at home in the 
Labor Party, of which in their later years they were loyal 

For a number of years Mrs. Webb was addicted to fast- 
ing, from motives partly hygienic and partly religious. She 
would have no breakfast and a very meager dinner. Her 
only solid meal was lunch. She almost always had a number 
of distinguished people to lunch, but she would get so hungry 


that the moment it was announced she marched in ahead of 
all her guests and started to eat. She nevertheless believed that 
starvation made her more spiritual, and once told me that it 
gave her exquisite visions. "Yes," I replied, "if you eat too lit- 
tle, you see visions; and if you drink too much, you see 
snakes." I am afraid she thought this remark inexcusably flip- 
pant. Webb did not share the religious side of her nature, but 
was in no degree hostile to it, in spite of the fact that it was 
sometimes inconvenient to him. When they and I were stay- 
ing at a hotel in Normandy, she used to stay upstairs since she 
could not bear the painful spectacle of us breakfasting. Sid- 
ney, however, would come down for rolls and coffee. The 
first morning Mrs. Webb sent a message by the maid, "we do 
not have butter for Sidney's breakfast." Her use of "we" 
was one of the delights of their friends. 

Both of them were fundamentally undemocratic, and re- 
garded it as the function of a statesman to bamboozle or ter- 
rorize the populace. I realized the origins of Mrs. Webb's 
conceptions of government when she repeated to me her fa- 
ther's description of shareholders' meetings. It is the recog- 
nized function of directors to keep shareholders in their place, 
and she had a similar view about the relation of the govern- 
ment to the electorate. 

Her father's stories of his career had not given her any un- 
due respect for the great. After he had built huts for the 
winter quarters of the French armies in the Crimea, he went 
to Paris to get paid. He had spent almost all his capital in 
putting up the huts, and payment became important to him. 
But, although everybody in Paris admitted the debt, the check 
did not come. At last he met Lord Brassey who had come on 
a similar errand. When Mr. Potter explained his difficulties, 
Lord Brassey laughed at him and said, "My dear fellow, you 
don't know the ropes. You must give fifty pounds to the 


Minister and five pounds to each of his underlings." Mr. Pot- 
ter did so, and the check came next day. 

Sidney had no hesitation in using wiles which some would 
think unscrupulous. He told me, for example, that when he 
wished to carry some point through a committee where the 
majority thought otherwise, he would draw up a resolution 
in which the contentious point occurred twice. He would 
have a long debate about its first occurrence and at last give 
way graciously. Nine times out of ten, so he concluded, no 
one would notice that the same point occurred later in the 
same resolution. 

The Webbs did a great work in giving intellectual back- 
bone to British Socialism. They performed more or less the 
same function that the Benthamites at an earlier time had 
performed for the Radicals. The Webbs and the Benthamites 
shared a certain dryness and a certain coldness and a belief 
that the wastepaper basket is the place for the emotions. But 
the Benthamites and the Webbs alike taught their doctrines to 
enthusiasts. Bentham and Robert Owen could produce a 
well-balanced intellectual progeny and so could the Webbs 
and Keir Hardy. One should not demand of anybody all the 
things that add value to a human being. To have some of 
them is as much as should be demanded. The Webbs pass this 
test, and indubitably the British Labor Party would have 
been much more wild and woolly if they had never existed. 
Their mantle descended upon Mrs. Webb's nephew Sir Staf- 
ford Cripps, and but for them I doubt whether the British 
democracy would have endured with the same patience the 
arduous years through which we have been passing. 


D. H. Lawrence 

MY ACQUAINTANCE with Lawrence was brief and hec- 
tic, lasting altogether about a year. We were 
brought together by Lady Ottoline Morrell who 
admired us both and made us think that we ought to admire 
each other. Pacifism had produced in me a mood of bitter 
rebellion and I found Lawrence equally full of rebellion. 
This made us think, at first, that there was a considerable 
measure of agreement between us, and it was only gradually 
that we discovered that we differed from each other more 
than either differed from the Kaiser. 

There were in Lawrence at that time two attitudes to the 
war: on the one hand, he could not be wholeheartedly patri- 
otic, because his wife was German; but on the other hand, he 
had such a hatred of mankind that he tended to think both 
sides must be right in so far as they hated each other. As I 
came to know these attitudes, I realized that neither was one 
with which I could sympathize. Awareness of our differ- 
ences, however, was gradual on both sides and at first all 
went merry as a marriage bell. I invited him to visit me at 
Cambridge and introduced him to Keynes and a number of 
other people. He hated them all with a passionate hatred and 
said they were "dead, dead, dead." For a time I thought he 



might be right. I liked Lawrence's fire, I liked the energy and 
passion of his feelings, I liked his belief that something very- 
fundamental was needed to put the world right. I agreed 
with him in thinking that politics could not be divorced from 
individual psychology. I felt him to be a man of a certain 
imaginative genius and, at first, when I felt inclined to disa- 
gree with him, I thought that perhaps his insight into human 
nature was deeper than mine. It was only gradually that I 
came to feel him a positive force for evil and that he came to 
have the same feeling about me. 

I was at this time preparing a course of lectures which was 
afterward published as Principles of Social Reconstruction. 
He also wanted to lecture, and for the time it seemed possible 
that there might be some sort of loose collaboration between 
us. We exchanged a number of letters of which mine are lost 
but his have been published. In his letters the gradual aware- 
ness of the consciousness of our fundamental disagreements 
can be traced. I was a firm believer in democracy, whereas he 
had developed the whole philosophy of fascism before the 
politicians had thought of it. "I don't believe," he wrote, "in 
democratic control. I think the working man is fit to elect 
governors or overseers for his immediate circumstances, but 
for no more. You must utterly revise the electorate. The 
working man shall elect superiors for the things that concern 
him immediately, no more. From the other classes, as they 
rise, shall be elected the higher governors. The thing must 
culminate in one real head, as every organic thing must no 
foolish republics with foolish presidents, but an elected king, 
something like Julius Caesar." He, of course, in his imagina- 
tion, supposed that when a dictatorship was established he 
would be the Julius Caesar. This was part of the dreamlike 
quality of all his thinking. He never let himself bump into 
reality. He would go into long tirades about how one must 


proclaim "the Truth" to the multitude, and he seemed to 
have no doubt that the multitude would listen. I asked him 
what method he was going to adopt. Would he put his politi- 
cal philosophy into a book? No: in our corrupt society the 
written word is always a lie. Would he go into Hyde Park 
and proclaim "the Truth" from a soap box? No: that would 
be far too dangerous (odd streaks of prudence emerged in 
him from time to time). Well, I said, what would you do? At 
this point he would change the subject. 

Gradually I discovered that he had no real wish to make 
the world better, but only to indulge in eloquent soliloquy 
about how bad it was. If anybody overheard the soliloquies 
so much the better, but they were designed at most to pro- 
duce a little faithful band of disciples who could sit in the 
deserts of New Mexico and feel holy. All this was conveyed 
to me in the language of a fascist dictator as what I must 
preach, the "must" having thirteen underlinings. 

His letters grew gradually more hostile. He wrote: 
"What's the good of living as you do anyway? I don't believe 
your lectures are good. They are nearly over, aren't they? 
What's the good of sticking in the damned ship and harangu- 
ing the merchant pilgrims in their own language? Why don't 
you drop overboard? Why don't you clear out of the whole 
show? One must be an outlaw these days, not a teacher or 
preacher." This seemed to me mere rhetoric. I was becom- 
ing more of an outlaw than he ever was and I could not quite 
see his ground of complaint against me. He phrased his com- 
plaint in different ways at different times. On another occa- 
sion he wrote: "Do stop working and writing altogether and 
become a creature instead of a mechanical instrument. Do 
clear out of the whole social ship. Do for your very pride's 
sake become a mere nothing, a mole, a creature that feels its 
way and doesn't think. Do for heaven's sake be a baby, and 


not a savant any more. Don't do anything more but for 
heaven's sake begin to be. Start at the very beginning and be 
a perfect baby: in the name of courage. 

"Oh, and I want to ask you, when you make your will, do 
leave me enough to live on. I want you to live forever. But I 
want you to make me in some part your heir." The only dif- 
ficulty with this program was that if I adopted it I should 
have nothing to leave. 

He had a mystical philosophy of "blood" which I disliked. 
"There is," he said, "another seat of consciousness than the 
brain and nerves. There is a blood consciousness which ex- 
ists in us independently of the ordinary mental consciousness. 
One lives, knows and has one's being in the blood, without 
any reference to nerves and brain. This is one half of life be- 
longing to the darkness. When I take a woman, then the 
blood percept is supreme. My blood knowing is overwhelm- 
ing. We should realize that we have a blood being, a blood 
consciousness, a blood soul complete and apart from a mental 
and nerve consciousness." This seemed to me frankly rubbish, 
and I rejected it vehemently, though I did not then know 
that it led straight to Auschwitz. 

He always got into a fury if one suggested that anybody 
could possibly have kindly feelings toward anybody else, and 
when I objected to war because of the suffering that it causes, 
he accused me of hypocrisy. "It isn't in the least true that 
you, your basic self, want ultimate peace. You are satisfying 
in an indirect, false way your lust to jab and strike. Either 
satisfy it in a direct and honorable way, saying 'I hate you all, 
liars and swine, and I am out to set upon you,' or stick to 
mathematics, where you can be true. But to come as the an- 
gel of peace no, I prefer Tirpitz a thousand times in that 

I find it difficult now to understand the devastating effect 


that this letter had upon me. I was inclined to believe that he 
had some insight denied to me, and when he said that my 
pacifism was rooted in blood lust I supposed he must be 
right. For twenty-four hours I thought that I was not fit to 
live and contemplated committing suicide. But at the end of 
that time, a healthier reaction set in, and I decided to have 
done with such morbidness. When he said that I must preach 
his doctrines and not mine I rebelled and told him to remem- 
ber that he was no longer a schoolmaster and I was not his 
pupil. He had written, "The enemy of all mankind you are, 
full of the lust of enmity. It is not a hatred of falsehood which 
inspires you, it is the hatred of people of flesh and blood, it is a 
perverted mental blood lust. Why don't you own it? Let us 
become strangers again. I think it is better." I thought so too. 
But he found a pleasure in denouncing me and continued for 
some months to write letters containing sufficient friendliness 
to keep the correspondence alive. In the end, it faded away 
without any dramatic termination. 

What at first attracted me to Lawrence was a certain dy- 
namic quality and a habit of challenging assumptions that one 
is apt to take for granted. I was already accustomed to be- 
ing accused of undue slavery to reason and I thought per- 
haps that he could give me a vivifying dose of unreason. I 
did in fact acquire a certain stimulus from him, and I think the 
book that I wrote in spite of his blasts of denunciation was 
better than it would have been if I had not known him. 

But this is not to say that there was anything good in his 
ideas. I do not think in retrospect that they had any merit 
whatever. They were the ideas of a sensitive would-be des- 
pot who got angry with the world because it would not in- 
stantly obey. When he realized that other people existed, he 
hated them. But most of the time he lived in a solitary world 
of his own imaginings, peopled by phantoms as fierce as he 


wished them to be. His excessive emphasis on sex was due to 
the fact that in sex alone he was compelled to admit that he 
was not the only human being in the universe. But it was be- 
cause this admission was so painful that he conceived of sex 
relations as a perpetual fight in which each is attempting to 
destroy the other. 

The world between the wars was attracted to madness. Of 
this attraction Nazism was the most emphatic expression. 
Lawrence was a suitable exponent of this cult of insanity. I 
am not sure whether the cold inhuman sanity of Stalin was 
any improvement. 

Lord John Russell 

MY GRANDFATHER, whom I remember vividly, was 
born on the eighteenth of August, 1792, a fort- 
night after the poet Shelley, whose life ended in 
1822. At the moment of my grandfather's birth the French 
Revolution was just getting under way, and it was in the 
month of his birth that the monarchy fell. He was one month 
old when the September Massacres terrified Royalists at 
home and the Battle of Valmy began the twenty-two years' 
war of the revolution against reaction. In this war, my grand- 
father, as became a follower of Fox, was more or less what 
would now be called a "fellow traveler." His first (unpub- 
lished) work contained an ironical dedication to Pitt, then still 
Prime Minister. During the Peninsular War he traveled in 
Spain, but with no wish to fight against Napoleon. He visited 
Napoleon in Elba, and had his ear pulled by the Great Man 
as was usual. When Napoleon returned from Elba my grand- 
father, who had been for two years a Member of Parliament, 
made a speech urging that he should not be opposed. The 
Government, however, being in the hands of the Tories, de- 
cided otherwise, and the Battle of Waterloo was the result. 
His greatest achievement was the carrying of the Reform Bill 
in 1832, which started Britain on the course that led to com- 
plete democracy. The opposition to this Bill on the part of 
the Tories was very violent and almost led to civil war. The 
clash at this time was the decisive battle between reaction- 
aries and progressives in England. It was the peaceful victory 
in this battle that saved England from revolution, and it was 



my grandfather who did most to secure the victory. He had 
after this a long career in politics and was twice Prime Min- 
ister, but did not again have the opportunity to lead de- 
cisively at a great crisis. In his later years he was only mod- 
erately liberal, except in one respect, and that was his hatred 
of religious disabilities. When he was a young man all who 
were not members of the Church of England suffered grave 
political disabilities. Jews especially were excluded from both 
Houses of Parliament and from many offices by means of an 
oath which only Christians could take. I still remember viv- 
idly seeing a large gathering of earnest men on the lawn in 
front of our house on May 9, 1878, when he was within a 
few days of his death. They cheered, and I naturally inquired 
what they were cheering about. I was told that they were 
leading nonconformists congratulating him on the fiftieth an- 
niversary of his first great achievement, the repeal of the Test 
and Corporation Acts, which excluded nonconformists from 
office and Parliament. The love of civil and religious liberty 
was very firmly implanted in me by such incidents and by 
the teaching of history that illuminated them. This feeling 
has survived through the various totalitarian regimes that 
have seduced many of my friends of the Right and of the 
Left equally. 

As my parents were dead, I lived in my grandfather's house 
during the last two years of his life. Even at the beginning of 
this time his physical powers were much impaired. I remem- 
ber him out of doors being wheeled in a Bath chair, and I 
remember him sitting reading in his sitting room. My recol- 
lection, which is of course unreliable, is that he was always 
reading Parliamentary Reports of which bound volumes 
covered all the walls of the large hall At the time to which 
this recollection refers, he was contemplating action con- 


nected with the Russo-Turkish War of 1876, but ill health 
made that impossible. 

In public life he was often accused of coldness, but at home 
he was warm and affectionate and kindly in the highest de- 
gree. He liked children, and I do not remember any single 
occasion when he told me not to make a noise or said any 
of the other repressive things that old people are apt to say 
to the very young. He was a good linguist and had no diffi- 
culty in making speeches in French or Spanish or Italian. He 
used to sit shaking with laughter over Don Quixote in the 
original. Like all Liberals of his time he had a romantic love 
of Italy, and the Italian Government gave him a large statue 
representing Italy, to express their gratitude for his services 
in the cause of Italian unity. This statue always stood in his 
sitting room and greatly interested me. 

My grandfather belonged to a type which is now quite 
extinct, the type of the aristocratic reformer whose zeal is 
derived from the classics, from Demosthenes and Tacitus, 
rather than from any more recent source. They worshiped a 
goddess called Liberty, but her lineaments were rather vague. 
There was also a demon called Tyranny. He was rather 
more definite. He was represented by kings and priests and 
policemen, especially if they were aliens. This creed had in- 
spired the intellectual revolutionaries of France, though 
Madame Roland on the scaffold found it somewhat too sim- 
ple. It was this creed that inspired Byron, and led him to 
fight for Greece. It was this creed that inspired Mazzini and 
Garibaldi and their English admirers. As a creed it was lit- 
erary and poetic and romantic. It was quite untouched by 
the hard facts of economics which dominate all modern po- 
litical thinking. My grandfather, as a boy, had as tutor Dr. 
Cartwright, the inventor of the power loom, which was one 


of the main factors in the Industrial Revolution. My grand- 
father never knew that he had made this invention, but ad- 
mired him for his elegant Latinity and for the elevation of 
his moral sentiments, as well as for the fact that he was the 
brother of a famous radical agitator. 

My grandfather subscribed to democracy as an ideal, but 
was by no means anxious that the approach to it should be 
in any way precipitate. He favored a gradual extension of 
the franchise, but I think he was convinced that, however it 
might be extended, English reforming parties would always 
find their leaders in the great Whig families. I do not mean 
that he was consciously convinced of this, but that it was 
part of the air he breathed, something which could be taken 
for granted -without discussion. 

Pembroke Lodge, where my grandfather lived, was a 
house in the middle of Richmond Park about ten miles from 
the center of London. It was in the gift of the Queen, and 
was given by her to my grandfather for his lifetime and that 
of my grandmother. In this house many Cabinet meetings 
took place and to this house many famous men came. On one 
occasion the Shah of Persia came and my grandfather apolo- 
gized for the smallness of the house. The Shah replied po- 
litely, "Yes, it is a small house, but it contains a great man.' 7 
In this house I met Queen Victoria when I was two years 
old. I was much interested by the visit of three Chinese dip- 
lomats in the correct Chinese ceremonial costume of that 
day; also by the visit of two Negro emissaries from Liberia. 
There was in the drawing room an exquisite inlaid Japanese 
table given to my grandfather by the Japanese Government. 
On sideboards in the dining room there were two enormous 
porcelain vases, which were presents from the King of 
Saxony. There was a narrow space between a table and a 
china cabinet which I was strictly forbidden to squeeze 


through, and, on this ground, it was always called the Dar- 
danelles. Every corner of the house was associated with some 
nineteenth-century event or institution which now seems as 
remotely historical as the dodo. Everything belonging to my 
childhood was part of a now completely vanished world 
the rambling Victorian house, now no longer in the gift of 
the sovereign, but turned into a tea shop; the garden, for- 
merly full of nooks and crannies in which a child could hide, 
but now wide open to the general public; the courtly dip- 
lomats representing sovereigns of States now vanished or 
turned into republics; the solemn pompous men of letters, 
to whom every platitude seemed profound; and above all, 
the absolute conviction of stability which made it an un- 
questioned axiom that no changes were to be expected any- 
where in the world, except an ordered and gradual develop- 
ment toward a constitution exactly like that of Britain. Was 
ever an age so blessedly blind to the future? Cassandra truly 
prophesied disaster and was not believed; the men of my 
grandfather's age falsely prophesied prosperity and were be- 
lieved. If he could come back into our present world he 
would be far more bewildered than his grandfather would 
have been by the nineteenth century. For those who have 
grown up in the atmosphere of a strong tradition, adaptation 
to the world of the present is difficult. Awareness of this 
difficulty makes it possible to understand how in the past and 
in the present great empires and great institutions, which have 
stood for ages, can be swept away because the political ex- 
perience that they embody has suddenly become useless and 
inapplicable. For this reason our age produces bewilderment 
in many, but offers at the same time a possibly fruitful chal- 
lenge to those who are capable of new thought and new 

John Stuart Mill 

IT is not easy to assess the importance of John Stuart Mill 
in nineteenth-century England. What he achieved de- 
pended more upon his moral elevation and his just es- 
timate of the ends of life than upon any purely intellectual 

His influence in politics and in forming opinion on moral 
issues was very great and, to my mind, wholly good. Like 
other eminent Victorians he combined intellectual distinction 
with a very admirable character. This intellectual distinction 
gave weight to his opinions, and was thought at the time to be 
greater than it appears in retrospect. There are various mod- 
ern trends which are adverse also to his ethical and moral 
theories, but in these respects I cannot feel that the world 
has made any advance since his day. 

Intellectually, he was unfortunate in the date of his birth. 
His predecessors were pioneers in one direction and his suc- 
cessors in another. The substructure of his opinions remained 
always that which had been laid down for him in youth by 
the dominating personality of his father, but the theories 
which he built upon this substructure were very largely such 
as it could not support. Skyscrapers, I am told, cannot be 
built in London because they need to be founded on rock. 
Mill's doctrines, like a skyscraper founded on clay, were 
shaky because the foundations were continually sinking. The 
new stories, which he added under the inspiration of Carlyle 
and Mrs. Taylor, were intellectually insecure. To put the 
matter in another way: morals and intellect were perpetually 



at war in his thought, morals being incarnate in Mrs. Taylor 
and intellect in his father. If the one was too soft, the other 
was too harsh. The amalgam which resulted was practically 
beneficent, but theoretically somewhat incoherent. 

Mill's first important book was his Logic, which no doubt 
presented itself in his mind as a plea for experimental rather 
than a priori methods, and, as such, it was useful though not 
very original. He could not foresee the immense and surpris- 
ing development of deductive logic which began with Boole's 
Laws of Thought in 1854, but only proved its importance at 
a considerably later date. Everything that Mill has to say in 
his Logic about matters other than inductive inference is per- 
functory and conventional. He states, for example, that prop- 
ositions are formed by putting together two names, one of 
which is the subject and the other the predicate. This, I am 
sure, appeared to him an innocuous truism; but it had been, 
in fact, the source of two thousand years of important error. 
On the subject of names, with which modern logic has been 
much concerned, what he has to say is totally inadequate, 
and is, in fact, not so good as what had been said by Duns 
Scotus and William of Occam. His famous contention that 
the syllogism in Barbara is a petitio principii, and that the 
argument is really from particulars to particulars, has a meas- 
ure of truth in certain cases, but cannot be accepted as a gen- 
eral doctrine. He maintains, for example, that the proposition 
"all men are mortal" asserts "the Duke of Wellington is 
mortal" even if the person making the assertion has never 
heard of the Duke of Wellington. This is obviously untena- 
ble: a person who knows the meaning of the words "man" 
and "mortal" can understand the statement "all men are mor- 
tal" but can make no inference about a man he has never 
heard of; whereas, if Mill were right about the Duke of Well- 
ington, a man could not understand this statement unless he 


knew the catalogue of all the men who ever have existed or 
ever will exist. His doctrine that inference is from particulars 
to particulars is correct psychology when applied to what I 
call "animal induction," but is never correct logic. To infer, 
from the mortality of men in the past, the mortality of those 
not yet dead, can only be legitimate if there is a general princi- 
ple of induction. Broadly speaking, no general conclusion can 
be drawn without a general premise, and only a general prem- 
ise will warrant a general conclusion from an incomplete enu- 
meration of instances. What is more, there are general prop- 
ositions of which no one can doubt the truth, although not a 
single instance of them can be given. Take, for example, the 
following: "All the whole numbers which no one will have 
thought of before the year A.D. 2000, are greater than a mil- 
lion." You cannot attempt to give me an instance without 
contradicting yourself, and you cannot pretend that all the 
whole numbers have been thought of by someone. From the 
time of Locke onward, British empiricists had had theories 
of knowledge which were inapplicable to mathematics; while 
Continental philosophers, with the exception of the French 
Philosophes, by an undue emphasis upon mathematics, had 
produced fantastic metaphysical systems. It was only after 
Mill's time that the sphere of empiricism was clearly de- 
limited from that of mathematics and logic so that peaceful 
co-existence became possible. I first read Mill's Logic at the 
age of eighteen, and at that time I had a very strong bias in 
his favor; but even then I could not believe that our ac- 
ceptance of the proposition "two and two are four" was a 
generalization from experience. I was quite at a loss to say 
how we arrived at this knowledge, but it -felt quite different 
from such a proposition as "all swans are white," which ex- 
perience might, and in fact did, confute. It did not seem to 
me that a fresh instance of two and two being four in any 


degree strengthened my belief. But it is only the modern de- 
velopment of mathematical logic which has enabled me to 
justify these early feelings and to fit mathematics and empiri- 
cal knowledge into a single framework. 

Mill, although he knew a certain amount of mathematics, 
never learned to think in a mathematical way. His law of 
causation is not one which is employed in mathematical 
physics. It is a practical maxim employed by savages and 
philosophers in the conduct of daily life, but not employed 
in physics by anyone acquainted with the calculus. The laws 
of physics never state, as Mill's causal laws do, that A is al- 
ways followed by B. They assert only that when A is pres- 
ent, there will be certain directions of change; since A also 
changes, the directions of change are themselves continually 
changing. The notion that causal laws are of the form "A 
causes B" is altogether too atomic, and could never have 
been entertained by anybody who had imaginatively appre- 
hended the continuity of change. 

But let us not be too dogmatic. There are those who say 
that physical changes are not continuous but explosive. These 
people, however, also say that individual events are not sub- 
ject to any causal regularity, and that the apparent regularities 
of the world are only due to the law of averages. I do not 
know whether this doctrine is right or wrong; but, in any 
case, it is very different from Mill's. 

Mill's law of causation is, in fact, only roughly and ap- 
proximately true in an everyday and unscientific sense. Nev- 
ertheless, he thinks it is proved by an inference which else- 
where he considers very shaky: that of induction by simple 
enumeration. This process is not only shaky, but can be 
proved quite definitely to lead to false consequences more 
often than to true ones. If you find n objects all of which 
possess two properties, A and B, and you then find another 


object possessing the property A, it can easily be proved that 
it is unlikely to possess the property B. This is concealed 
from common sense by the fact that our animal propensity 
toward induction is confined to the sort of cases in which 
induction is liable to give correct results. Take the following 
as an example of an induction which no one would make: 
all the sheep that Kant ever saw were within ten miles of 
Konigsberg, but he felt no inclination to induce that all sheep 
were within ten miles of Konigsberg. 

Modern physics does not use induction in the old sense at 
all. It makes enormous theories without pretending that they 
are in any exact sense true, and uses them only hypothetically 
until new facts turn up which require new theories. All that 
the modern physicist claims for a theory is that it fits the 
known facts and therefore cannot at present be refuted. The 
problem of induction in its traditional form has by most 
theoretical physicists been abandoned as insoluble. I am not 
by any means persuaded that they are right in this, but I think 
it is quite definitely demonstrable that the problem is very 
different from what Mill supposed it to be. 

It is rather surprising that Mill was so little influenced by 
Darwin and the theory of evolution. This is the more curious 
as he frequently quotes Herbert Spencer. He seems to have 
accepted the Darwinian theory but without realizing its im- 
plications. In the chapter on "Classification" in his Logic, he 
speaks of "natural kinds" in an entirely pre-Darwinian fash- 
ion, and even suggests that the recognized species of animals 
and plants are infimae species in the scholastic sense, although 
Darwin's book on the Origin of Species proved this view to 
be untenable. It was natural that the first edition of his Logic 9 
which appeared in 1843, should take no account of the theory 
of evolution, but it is odd that no modifications were made 
in later editions. What is perhaps still more surprising is that 


in his Three Essays on Religion, written very late in his life, 
he does not reject the argument from design based upon the 
adaptation of plants and animals to their environment, or 
discuss Darwin's explanation of this adaptation. Ido not think 
that he ever imaginatively conceived of man as one among 
animals or escaped from the eighteenth-century belief that 
man is fundamentally rational. I am thinking, now, not of 
what he would have explicitly professed, but of what he 
unconsciously supposed whenever he was not on his guard. 
Most of us go about the world with such subconscious pre- 
suppositions which influence our beliefs more than explicit 
arguments do, and in most of us these presuppositions are 
fully formed by the time we are twenty-five. In the case of 
Mill, Mrs. Taylor effected certain changes, but these were 
not in the purely intellectual realm. In that realm, James 
continued to reign supreme over his son's subconscious. 


THE Principles of Political Economy was Mill's second major 
work. The first edition appeared in 1848, but it was followed 
by a substantially modified edition in the next year. Mr. 
Packe, in his admirable biography, has said most of what needs 
to be said about the difference between these two editions. 
The difference was mainly concerned with the question of 
Socialism. In the first edition, Socialism was criticized from the 
point of view of the orthodox tradition. But this shocked Mrs. 
Taylor, and she induced Mill to make very considerable mod- 
ifications when a new edition was called for. One of the most 
valuable things in Mr. Packe's book is that he has at last en- 
abled us to see Mrs. Taylor in an impartial light, and to under- 


stand the sources of her influence on Mill. But I think perhaps 
Mr. Packe is a little too severe in criticizing Mill for his change 
as regards Socialism. I cannot but think that what Mrs. Taylor 
did for him in this respect was to enable him to think what his 
own nature led him to think, as opposed to what he had been 
taught. His attitude to Socialism, as it appears in the later 
editions of the book, is by no means uncritical. He still feels 
that there are difficulties which Socialists do not adequately 
face. He says, for example, "It is the common error of So- 
cialists to overlook the natural indolence of mankind"; and 
on this ground he fears that a Socialist community might 
stagnate. He lived in a happier age than ours: we should feel 
a joyful ecstasy if we could hope for anything as comfortable 
as stagnation. 

In his chapter on "The Probable Futurity of the Laboring 
Classes" he develops a Utopia to which he looks forward. 
He hopes to see production in the hands of voluntary socie- 
ties of workers. Production is not to be in the hands of the 
State, as Marxian Socialists have maintained that it should 
be. The Socialism to which Mill looks forward is that of St. 
Simon and Fourier. (Robert Owen, to my mind, is not suffi- 
ciently emphasized.) Pre-Marxian Socialism, which is that of 
which Mill writes, did not aim at increasing the power of the 
State. Mill argues emphatically that even under Socialism 
there will still have to be competition, though the competition 
will be between rival societies of workers, not between rival 
capitalists. He is inclined to admit that in such a Socialist 
system as he advocates the total production of goods might 
be less than under capitalism, but he contends that this would 
be no great evil provided everybody could be kept in reason- 
able comfort. 

To readers of our time, who take it as part of the meaning 
of Socialism that private capitalists should be replaced by the 


State, it is difficult to avoid misunderstanding in reading Mill. 
Mill preserved all the distrust of the State which the Man- 
chester School had developed in fighting the feudal aristoc- 
racy; and the distrust which he derived from this source was 
strengthened by his passionate belief in liberty. The power 
of governments, he says, is always dangerous. He is confident 
that this power will diminish. Future ages, he maintains, will 
be unable to credit the amount of government interference 
which has hitherto existed. It is painful to read a statement of 
this sort, since it makes one realize the impossibility of fore- 
seeing, even in its most general outlines, the course of future 
development. The only nineteenth-century writer who fore- 
saw the future with any approach to accuracy was Nietzsche, 
and he foresaw it, not because he was wiser than other men, 
but because all the hateful things that have been happening 
were such as he wished to see. It is only in our disillusioned 
age that prophets like Orwell have begun to foretell what they 
feared rather than what they hoped. 

Mill, both in his prophecies and in his hopes, was misled by 
not foreseeing the increasing power of great organizations. 
This applies not only in economics, but also in other spheres. 
He maintained, for example, that the State ought to insist 
upon universal education, but ought not to do the educating 
itself. He never realized that, so far as elementary education 
is concerned, the only important alternative to the State is 
the Church, which he would hardly have preferred. 

Mill distinguishes between Communism and Socialism. He 
prefers the latter, while not wholly condemning the former. 
The distinction in his day was not so sharp as it has since 
become. Broadly speaking, as he explains it, the distinction is 
that Communists object to all private property while Social- 
ists contend only that "land and the instruments of produc- 
tion should be the property, not of individuals, but of com- 


munities or associations, or of the Government." There is a 
famous passage in which he expresses his opinion on Com- 

"If, therefore, the choice were to be made between Com- 
munism with all its chances, and the present state of society 
with all its sufferings and injustices; if the institution of pri- 
vate property necessarily carried with it as a consequence, 
that the produce of labor should be apportioned as we now 
see it, almost in an inverse ratio to the labor the largest 
portions to those who have never worked at all, the next 
largest to those whose work is almost nominal, and so in a 
descending scale, the remuneration dwindling as the work 
grows harder and more disagreeable, until the most fatiguing 
and exhausting bodily labor cannot count with certainty on 
being able to earn even the necessaries of life; if this or Com- 
munism were the alternative, all the difficulties, great or small, 
of Communism would be but as dust in the balance. But to 
make the comparison applicable, we must compare Commu- 
nism at its best, with the regime of individual property, not 
as it is, but as it might be made. The principle of private 
property has never yet had a fair trial in any country; and 
less so, perhaps, in this country than in some others." 

The history of words is curious. Nobody in Mill's time, 
with the possible exception of Marx, could have guessed that 
the word "Communism" would come to denote the military, 
administrative, and judicial tyranny of an oligarchy, per- 
mitting to the workers only so much of the produce of their 
labor as might be necessary to keep them from violent revolt. 
Marx, whom we can now see to have been the most influen- 
tial of Mill's contemporaries, is, so far as I have been able to 
discover, not mentioned in any of Mill's writings, and it is 
quite probable that Mill never heard of him. The Communist 
Manifesto was published in the same year as Mill's Political 


Economy ', but the men who represented culture did not 
know of it. I wonder what unknown person in the present 
day will prove, a hundred years hence, to have been the 
dominant figure of our time. 

Apart from the pronouncements on Socialism and Com- 
munism, Mill's Political Economy is not important. Its main 
principles are derived from his orthodox predecessors with 
only minor modifications. Ricardo's theory of value, with 
which on the whole he is in agreement, was superseded by 
Jevon's introduction of the concept of marginal utility, which 
represented an important theoretical improvement. As in his 
Logic, Mill is too ready to acquiesce in a traditional doc- 
trine provided he is not aware of any practical evil resulting 
from it. 


MUCH more important than Mill's longer treatises were his 
two short books On the Subjection of Women and On Lib- 
erty. In regard to the first of these, the world has gone com- 
pletely as he would have wished. In regard to the second, 
there has been an exactly opposite movement. 

It is a disgrace to both men and women that the world 
should have had to wait so long for champions of women's 
equality. Until the French Revolution, nobody except Plato 
ever thought of claiming equality for women, but when the 
subject came to be raised, incredibly ridiculous arguments 
were invented in support of the status quo. It was not only 
men who argued that women should have no part in politics. 
The arguments were equally convincing to women, and es- 
pecially to political women such as Queen Victoria and Mrs. 


Sidney Webb. Very few seemed capable of realizing that 
the supremacy of men was based solely upon a supremacy 
of muscle. The claim for women's equality was regarded as 
a subject of ridicule, and remained so until three years before 
it achieved success. I spoke in favor of votes for women be- 
fore the First World War and in favor of pacifism during it. 
The opposition which I encountered in the first of these 
causes was more virulent and more widespread than that 
which I encountered in the second. Few things in history 
are more surprising than the sudden concession of political 
rights to women in all civilized countries except Switzerland. 
This is, I think, part of a general change from a biological to 
a mechanistic outlook. Machinery diminishes the importance 
of muscle. Industry is less concerned with the seasons than 
agriculture. Democracy has destroyed dynasties and lessened 
the feeling of family continuity. Napoleon wanted his son to 
succeed him. Lenin, Stalin and Hitler had no such desire. I 
think the concession of equality to women has been rendered 
possible by the fact that they are no longer regarded prima- 
rily in a biological light. Mill remarks that the only women in 
England who are not slaves and drudges are those who are 
operatives in factories. Unaccountably, he forgot Queen Vic- 
toria. But there is a measure of truth in what he says, for the 
work of women in factories, unlike childbearing, is such as 
men are capable of doing. It seems that, however admirable 
the emancipation of women may be in itself, it is part of a 
vast sociological change emphasizing industry at the expense 
of agriculture, the factory at the expense of the nursery, and 
power at the expense of subsistence. I think the world has 
swung too far in this direction and will not return to sanity 
until the biological aspects of human life are again remem- 
l>ered. But I see no reason why, if this occurs, it should in- 
volve a revival of the subjection of women. 


Mill's book On Liberty is more important to us in the 
present day than his book On the Subjection of Women. It 
is more important because the cause which it advocates has 
been less successful. There is, on the whole, much less liberty 
in the world now than there was a hundred years ago; and 
there is no reason to suppose that restrictions on liberty are 
likely to grow less in any foreseeable future. Mill points to 
Russia as a country so dominated by bureaucracy that no 
one, not even the individual bureaucrat, has any personal lib- 
erty. But the Russia of his day, after the emancipation of the 
serfs, had a thousand times more freedom than the Russia of 
our day. The Russia of his day produced great writers who 
opposed the autocracy, courageous revolutionaries who were 
able to carry on their propaganda in spite of prison and exile, 
even liberals among those in power, as the abolition of serf- 
dom proved. There was every reason to hope that Russia 
would in time develop into a constitutional monarchy, march- 
ing by stages toward the degree of political freedom that 
existed in England. The growth of liberty was also apparent 
in other countries. In the United States, slavery was abolished 
a few years after the publication of Mill's book. In France, 
the monarchy of Napoleon III, which Mill passionately hated, 
came to an end eleven years after his book was published; 
and, at the same time, manhood suffrage was introduced in 
Germany. On such grounds I do not think that Mr. Packe is 
right in saying that the general movement of the time was 
against liberty, and I do not think that Mill's optimism was 

With Mill's values, I for my part find myself in complete 
agreement. I think he is entirely right in emphasizing the 
importance of the individual in so far as values are concerned. 
I think, moreover, that it is even more desirable in our day 
than it was in his to uphold the kind of outlook for which 


he stands. But those who care for liberty in our day have to 
fight different battles from those of the nineteenth century, 
and have to devise new expedients if liberty is not to perish. 
From the seventeenth century to the end of the nineteenth, 
"Liberty' 7 was the watchword of the radicals and revolu- 
tionaries; but in our day the word has been usurped by reac- 
tionaries, and those who think themselves most progressive 
are inclined to despise it. It is labeled as part of ''rotten bour- 
geois idealism" and is regarded as a middle-class fad, impor- 
tant only to those who already enjoy the elegant leisure of 
the well-to-do. So far as any one person is responsible for 
this change, the blame must fall on Marx, who substituted 
Prussian discipline for freedom as both the means and the end 
of revolutionary action. But Marx would not have had the 
success which he has had if there had not been large changes 
in social organization and in technique which furthered his 
ideals as opposed to those of earlier reformers. 

What has changed the situation since Mill's day is, as I 
remarked before, the great increase of organization. Every 
organization is a combination of individuals for a purpose; 
and, if this purpose is to be achieved, it requires a certain sub- 
ordination of the individuals to the whole. If the purpose is 
one in which all the individuals feel a keen interest, and if 
the executive of the organization commands confidence, the 
sacrifice of liberty may be very small. But if the purpose for 
which the organization exists inspires only its executive, to 
which the other members submit for extraneous reasons, the 
loss of liberty involved may grow until it becomes almost 
total. The larger the organization, the greater becomes the 
gap in power between those at the top and those at the bot- 
tom, and the more likelihood there is of oppression. The mod- 
ern world, for technical reasons, is very much more organ- 
ized than the world of a hundred years ago: there are very 


many fewer acts which a man does simply from his own 
impulse, and very many more which he is compelled or in- 
duced to perform by some authority. The advantages that 
spring from organization are so great and so obvious that it 
would be absurd to wish to return to an earlier condition, but 
those who are conscious only of the advantages are apt to 
overlook the dangers, which are very real and very menac- 

As a first example, let us take agriculture. In the years 
immediately succeeding the publication of Mill's Liberty, 
there was an immense development of pioneering in the Mid- 
dle West of the United States. The pioneers prided themselves 
upon their u rugged individualism." They settled in regions 
which were well wooded, well watered, and of great natural 
fertility. Without excessive labor, they felled the trees, 
thereby securing log cabins and fuel, and when the soil was 
cleared, they procured a rich harvest of grain. There was, 
however, a serpent in this individualist paradise: the serpent 
was the railroad, without which the grain could not be got 
to market. The railroad represented a vast accumulation of 
capital, an enormous expenditure of labor, and a combination 
of very many persons, hardly any of them agriculturists. The 
pioneers were indignant at their loss of independence, and 
their indignation gave rise to the Populist movement, which, 
in spite of much heat, never achieved any success. In this 
case, however, there was only one enemy of personal inde- 
pendence. I was struck by the difference when I came in 
contact with pioneers in Australia. The conquering of new 
land for agriculture in Australia depends upon enormously 
expensive schemes of irrigation, too vast for the separate 
states and only practicable by the federal government. Even 
then, when a man has acquired a tract of land, it contains no 
timber, and all his building materials and his fuel have to be 


brought from a distance. Medical attention for himself and 
his family is only rendered possible by an elaborate organi- 
zation of airplanes and radio. His livelihood depends upon 
the export trade, which prospers or suffers according to the 
vagaries of distant governments. His mentality, his tastes and 
his feelings, are still those of the rugged individualist pioneer 
of a hundred years ago, but his circumstances are totally dif- 
ferent. However he may wish to rebel, he is tightly controlled 
by forces that are entirely external to himself. Intellectual 
liberty he may still have; but economic liberty has become 
a dream. 

But the life of the Australian pioneer is one of heavenly 
bliss when compared with that of the peasant in Communist 
countries, who has become more completely a serf than he 
was in the worst days of the Czardom. He owns no land, 
he has no right to the produce of his own labor, the authori- 
ties permit him only a bare subsistence, and any complaint 
may land him in a forced-labor camp. The totalitarian State 
is the last term of organization, the goal toward which, if 
we are not careful, we shall find all developed countries tend- 
ing. Socialists have thought that the power hitherto vested 
in capitalists would become beneficent if vested in the State. 
To some degree this is true, so long as the State is democratic. 
Communists, unfortunately, forgot this proviso. By transfer- 
ring economic power to an oligarchic State, they produced 
an engine of tyranny more dreadful, more vast, and at the 
same time more minute than any that had existed in previous 
history. I do not think this was the intention of those who 
made the Russian Revolution, but it was the effect of their 
actions. Their actions had this effect because they failed to 
realize the need of liberty and the inevitable evils of despotic 

But the evils, of which the extreme form is seen in Com- 


munist countries, exist in a lesser degree, and may easily in- 
crease, in many countries belonging to what is somewhat 
humorously called the "Free World." Vavilov, the most dis- 
tinguished geneticist that Russia has produced in recent times, 
was sent to perish miserably in the Arctic because he would 
not subscribe to Stalin's ignorant belief in the inheritance of 
acquired characters. Oppenheimer is disgraced and prevented 
from pursuing his work largely because he doubted the prac- 
ticability of the hydrogen bomb at a time when this doubt 
was entirely rational. The FBI, which has only the level of 
education to be expected among policemen, considers itself 
competent to withhold visas from the most learned men in 
Europe on grounds which every person capable of under- 
standing the matters at issue knows to be absurd. This evil 
has reached such a point that international conferences of 
learned men in the United States have become impossible. It 
is curious that Mill makes very little mention of the police as 
a danger to liberty. In our day, they are its worst enemy in 
most civilized countries. 


IT is an interesting speculation, and perhaps not a wholly idle 
one, to consider how Mill would have written his book if he 
had been writing now. I think that everything he says on the 
value of liberty could stand unchanged. So long as human 
life persists, liberty will be essential to many of the greatest 
goods that our terrestrial existence has to offer. It has its pro- 
found source in one of our most elementary instincts: new- 
born infants fall into a rage if their limbs are constricted. The 
kinds of freedom that are desired change with growth in 


years and knowledge, but it remains an essential source of 
simple happiness. But it is not only happiness that is lost when 
liberty is needlessly impaired. It is also all the more impor- 
tant and difficult kinds of usefulness. Almost every great serv- 
ice that individuals have ever done to mankind has exposed 
them to violent hostility extending often to martyrdom. All 
this is said by Mill so well that it would require no alteration 
except the supplying of more recent instances. 

Mill would, I think, go on to say that unwarrantable in- 
terferences with liberty are mostly derived from one or 
other of two sources: the first of these is a tyrannical moral 
code which demands of others conformity with rules of be- 
havior which they do not accept; the other, which is the more 
important, is unjust power. 

Of the first of these, the tyranny of moral codes, Mill gives 
various examples. He has an eloquent and powerful passage 
on the persecution of the Mormons, which is all the better 
for his purposes because no one could suspect him of thinking 
well of polygamy. Another of his examples of undue inter- 
ference with liberty in the supposed interests of a moral code 
is the observance of the Sabbath, which has lost most of its 
importance since his day. My father, who was a disciple of 
Mill, spent his brief Parliamentary career in a vain endeavor 
to persuade the House of Commons that T. H. Huxley's lec- 
tures were not entertaining, for, if they could be considered 
as entertainment, they were illegal on Sundays. 

I think if Mill were writing now he would choose in fur- 
ther illustration two matters which the police have recently 
brought to the fore. The first of these is ' 'obscene" literature. 
The law on this subject is exceedingly vague; indeed, if there 
is to be any law about it, it cannot well help being vague. In 
practice, anything is obscene which happens to shock a mag- 
istrate; and even things which do not shock a magistrate may 


become the subject of prosecution if they happen to shock 
some ignorant policeman, as happened recently in the case of 
the Decameron. One of the evils of any law of this sort is 
that it prevents the diffusion of useful knowledge if such 
knowledge was not thought useful when the magistrate in 
question was a boy. Most of us had thought that matters were 
improving in this respect, but recent experience has made us 
doubtful. I cannot think that the feeling of shock which an 
elderly man experiences on being brought in contact with 
something to which he is not accustomed is a sufficient basis 
for an accusation of crime. 

The second matter in which Mill's principles condemn ex- 
isting legislation is homosexuality. If two adults voluntarily 
enter into such a relation, this is a matter which concerns 
them only, and in which, therefore, the community ought not 
to intervene. If it were still believed, as it once was, that the 
toleration of such behavior would expose the community to 
the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, the community would 
have every right to intervene. But it does not acquire a right 
to intervene merely on the ground that such conduct is 
thought wicked. The criminal law may rightly be invoked to 
prevent violence or fraud inflicted upon unwilling victims, 
but it ought not to be invoked when whatever damage there 
may be is suffered only by the agents always assuming that 
the agents are adults. 

Of much greater importance than these remnants of medi- 
evalism in our legislation, is the question of unjust power. It 
was this question which gave rise to the liberalism of the 
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They protested against 
the power of monarchs, and against the power of the Church 
in countries where there was religious persecution. They pro- 
tested also against alien domination wherever there was a 
strong national sentiment running counter to it. On the 


whole, these aims were successfully achieved. Monarchs were 
replaced by presidents, religious persecution almost disap- 
peared, and the Treaty of Versailles did what it could to 
realize the liberal principle of nationality. In spite of all this, 
the world did not become a paradise. Lovers of liberty found 
that there was less of it than there had been, not more. But 
the slogans and strategies which had brought victory in the 
past to the liberal cause were not applicable to the new situa- 
tion, and the liberals found themselves deserted by the sup- 
posedly progressive advocates of new forms of tyranny. 
Kings and priests and capitalists are, on the whole, outmoded 
bogies. It is officials who represent the modern danger. 
Against the power of officials, single individuals can do little; 
only organizations can combat organizations. I think we shall 
have to revive Montesquieu's doctrine of the division of pow- 
ers, but in new forms. Consider, for example, the conflict of 
labor and capital which dominated the minds of Socialists. 
Socialists imagined that the evils they were combating would 
cease if the power of capital was put into the hands of the 
State. This was done in Russia with the approval of organ- 
ized labor. As soon as it had been done the trade unions 
were deprived of independent power, and labor found itself 
more completely enslaved than ever before. There is no 
monolithic solution of this problem that will leave any loop- 
hole for liberty. The only possible solution that a lover of 
liberty can support must be one in which there are rival pow- 
ers, neither of them absolute, and each compelled in a crisis 
to pay some attention to public opinion. This means, in prac- 
tice, that trade unions must preserve their independence of 
the executive. Undoubtedly the liberty enjoyed by a man 
who must belong to his union if he is to obtain employment 
is an inadequate and imperfect liberty; but it seems to be the 
best that modern industries can permit. 


There is one sphere in which the advocate of liberty is con- 
fronted with peculiar difficulties. I mean the sphere of educa- 
tion. It has never been thought that children should be free to 
choose whether they will be educated or not; and it is not 
now held that parents ought to have this freedom of choice. 
Mill thought that the State should insist that children should 
be educated, but should not itself do the educating. He had, 
however, not very much to say about how the educating 
should be done. I will try to consider what he would say on 
this subject if he were writing now. 

Let us begin by asking the question of principle, namely, 
what should a lover of liberty wish to see done in the schools? 
I think the ideal but somewhat Utopian answer would be that 
the pupils should be qualified as far as possible to form a 
reasonable judgment on controversial questions in regard to 
which they are likely to have to act. This would require, on 
the one hand, a training in judicial habits of thought; and, on 
the other hand, access to impartial supplies of knowledge. In 
this way the pupil would be prepared for a genuine freedom 
of choice on becoming adult* We cannot give freedom to the 
child, but we can give him a preparation for freedom; and 
this is what education ought to do. 

This, however, is not the theory of education which has 
prevailed in most parts of the world. The theory of educa- 
tion which has prevailed most widely was invented by the 
Jesuits and perfected by Fichte. Fichte states that the object 
of education should be to destroy freedom of the will, for 
why, he asks, should we wish a freedom to choose what is 
wrong rather than what is right? Fichte knows what is right, 
and desires a school system such that, when the children grow 
up, they will be under an inner compulsion to choose what 
Fichte considers right in preference to what he considers 
wrong. This theory is adopted in its entirety by Communists 


and Catholics, and, up to a point, by the State schools of 
many countries. Its purpose is to produce mental slaves, who 
have heard only one side on all the burning questions of the 
day and have been inspired with feelings of horror toward 
the other side. There is just one slight divergence from what 
Fichte wanted: although his method of education is approved, 
the dogmas inculcated differ from country to country and 
from creed to creed. What Fichte chiefly wished taught was 
the superiority of the German nation to all others; but on this 
one small point most of his disciples disagreed with him. The 
consequence is that State education, in the countries which 
adopt his principles, produces, in so far as it is successful, a 
herd of ignorant fanatics, ready at the word of command to 
engage in war or persecution as may be required of them. So 
great is this evil that the world would be a better place (at 
any rate, in my opinion) if State education had never been 

There is a broad principle which helps in deciding many 
questions as to the proper sphere of liberty. The things that 
make for individual well-being are, broadly speaking, of two 
sorts: namely, those in which private possession is possible 
and those in which it is not. The food that one man eats can- 
not be also eaten by another; but if a man enjoys a poem, he 
does not thereby place any obstacle in the way of another 
man's enjoyment of it. Roughly speaking, the goods of which 
private possession is possible are material, whereas the other 
sort of goods are mental. Material goods, if the supply is not 
unlimited, should be distributed on principles of justice: no 
one should have too much if, in consequence, someone else 
has too little. This principle of distribution will not result 
from unrestricted liberty, which would lead to Hobbes's war 
of all against all and end in the victory of the stronger. But 
mental goods such as knowledge, enjoyment of beauty, 


friendship and love are not taken away from other people 
by those whose lives are enriched by them. There is not, 
therefore, any prima-facie case for restrictions of liberty in 
this sphere. Those who forbid certain kinds of knowledge, or, 
like Plato and Stalin, certain kinds of music and poetry, are 
allowing Government to intervene in regions where it has no 
locus stmdi. I do not wish to overemphasize the importance 
of this principle, for there are many cases in which the dis- 
tinction between material and mental goods cannot be 
sharply drawn. One of the most obvious of these is the print- 
ing of books. A book is as material as a plum pudding, but 
the good that we expect to derive from it is mental. It is not 
easy to devise any sound principle upon which even the wisest 
authority could decide what books deserve to be printed. I 
do not think that any improvement is possible upon the pres- 
ent diversity of publishers. Wherever there is an authority, 
whether secular or ecclesiastical, whose permission is required 
before a book can be printed, the results are disastrous. The 
same thing applies to the arts: no one, not even a Commu- 
nist, will now contend that Russian music was improved by 
Stalin's intervention. 

Mill deserved the eminence which he enjoyed in his own 
day, not by his intellect but by his intellectual virtues. He 
was not a great philosopher, like Descartes or Hume. In the 
realm of philosophy, he derived his ideas from Hume and 
Bentham and his father. But he blended the harshness of 
the Philosophical Radicals with something of the Romantic 
Movement, derived first from Coleridge and Carlyle and then 
from his wife. What he took over, he made rational in assimi- 
lating it. The follies and violences of some Romantics made 
no impression upon him. His intellectual integrity was im- 
peccable. When he engaged in controversy, he did so with the 
most minutely scrupulous fairness. The people against whom 


his controversies were directed deserved almost always the 
urbanely worded strictures which he passed upon them. 

In spite of his purely intellectual deficiencies, his influence 
was very great and very beneficent. He made rationalism and 
Socialism respectable, though his Socialism was of the pre- 
Marxist sort which did not involve an increase in the powers 
of the State. His advocacy of equality for women in the end 
won almost world-wide acceptance. His book On Liberty re- 
mains a classic: although it is easy to point out theoretical 
defects, its value increases as the world travels farther and 
farther from his teaching. The present world would both 
astonish and horrify him; but it would be better than it is, if 
his ethical principles were more respected. 

Mind and Matter 

PLATO, reinforced by religion, has led mankind to accept 
the division of the known world into two categories 
mind and matter. Physics and psychology alike have 
begun to throw doubt on this dichotomy. It has begun to 
seem that matter, like the Cheshire Cat, is becoming gradually 
diaphanous until nothing of it is left but the grin, caused, 
presumably, by amusement at those who still think it is there. 
Mind, on the other hand, under the influence of brain surgery 
and of the fortunate opportunities provided by war for study- 
ing the effects of bullets embedded in cerebral tissue, has begun 
to appear more and more as a trivial by-product of certain 
kinds of physiological circumstances. This view has been re- 
inforced by the morbid horror of introspection which besets 
those who fear that a private life, of no matter what kind, 
may expose them to the attentions of the police. We have thus 
a curiously paradoxical situation, reminding one of the duel 
between Hamlet and Laertes, in which students of physics 
have become idealists, while many psychologists are on the 
verge of materialism. The truth is, of course, that mind and 
matter are, alike, illusions. Physicists, who study matter, dis- 
cover this fact about matter, psychologists, who study mind, 
discover this fact about mind. But each remains convinced 
that the other's subject of study must have some solidity. 
What I wish to do in this essay is to restate the relations of 
mind and brain in terms not implying the existence of either. 
What one may call the conventional view has altered little 
since the days of the Cartesians. There is the brain, which acts 



according to the laws of physics; and there is the mind 
which, though it seems to have some laws of its own, is in 
many crucial ways subjected to physical conditions in the 
brain. The Cartesians supposed a parallelism according to 
which mind and brain were each determined by its own laws, 
but the two series were so related that, given an event in the 
one, it was sure to be accompanied by a corresponding event 
in the other. To take a simple analogy: suppose an English- 
man and a Frenchman recite the Apostles' Creed, one in Eng- 
lish, the other in French, at exactly the same speed, you can 
then, from what one of them is saying at a given moment in 
his language, infer what the other is saying in his. The two 
series run parallel, though neither causes the other. Few peo- 
ple would now adhere to this theory in its entirety. The 
denial of interaction between mind and brain contradicts com- 
mon sense, and never had any but metaphysical arguments in 
its favor. We all know that a physical stimulus, such as being 
hit on the nose, may cause a mental reaction in this case of 
pain. And we all know that this mental reaction of pain may 
be the cause of a physical movement for example, of the 
fist. There are, however, two opposing schools, not so much 
of thought as of practice. One school has as its ideal a com- 
plete physical determinism as regards the material universe, 
combined with a dictionary stating that certain physical oc- 
currences are invariably contemporary with certain mental 
occurrences. There is another school, of whom the psycho- 
analysts are the most influential part, which seeks purely 
psychological laws and does not aim at first establishing a 
causal skeleton in physics. The difference shows in the inter- 
pretation of dreams. If you have a nightmare, the one school 
will say that it is because you ate too much lobster salad, and 
the other that it is because you are unconsciously in love with 
your mother. Far be it from me to take sides in so bitter a 


debate; my own view would be that each type of explanation 
is justified where it succeeds. Indeed I should view the whole 
matter in a way which makes the controversy vanish, but 
before I can make this clear, there is need of a considerable 
amount of theoretical clarification. 

Descartes, as everybody knows, says "I think, therefore I 
am," and he goes on at once, as if he had said nothing new, 
to assert "I am a thing that thinks." It would be difficult to 
pack so large a number of errors into so few words. To 
begin with "I think," the word "I" is thrust in to conform 
with grammar, and grammar embodies the metaphysic of our 
original Indo-European ancestors as they stammered round 
their campfires. We must, therefore, cut out the word "I." 
We will leave the word "think," but without a subject, since 
the subject embodies a belief in substance which we must shut 
out of our thoughts. The words "therefore I am" not only 
repeat the metaphysical sin embodied in the word "I," but 
commit the further sin, vigorously pilloried throughout the 
works of Carnap, of confounding a word in inverted com- 
mas with a word without inverted commas. When I say "I 
am," or "Socrates existed," or any similar statement, I am 
really saying something about the word "I" or the word 
"Socrates" roughly speaking, in each case that this word is 
a name. For it is obvious that, if you think of all the things 
that there are in the world, they cannot be divided into two 
classes namely, those that exist, and those that do not. Non- 
existence, in fact, is a very rare property. Everybody knows 
the story of the two German pessimistic philosophers, of 
whom one exclaimed: "How much happier were it never to 
have been born." To which the other replied with a sigh: 
"True! But how few are those who achieve this happy lot." 
You cannot, in fact, say significantly of anything that it 
exists. What you can say significantly is that the word de- 


noting it denotes something, which is not true of such a word 
as "Hamlet." Every statement about Hamlet in the play has 
implicit the false statement " 'Hamlet' is a name," and that is 
why you cannot take the play as part of Danish history. So 
when Descartes says "I am," what he ought to mean is " T 
is a name" doubtless a very interesting statement, but not 
having all the metaphysical consequences which Descartes 
wishes to draw from it. These, however, are not the mistakes 
I wish to emphasize in Descartes' philosophy. What I wish 
to emphasize is the error involved in saying "I am a thing 
that thinks." Here the substance philosophy is assumed. It is 
assumed that the world consists of more or less permanent 
objects with changing states. This view was evolved by the 
original metaphysicians who invented language, and who were 
much struck by the difference between their enemy in battle 
and their enemy after he had been slain, although they were 
persuaded that it was the same person whom they first feared, 
and then ate. It is from such origins that common sense de- 
rives its tenets. And I regret to say that all too many profes- 
sors of philosophy consider it their duty to be sycophants of 
common sense, and thus, doubtless unintentionally, to bow 
down in homage before the savage superstitions of cannibals. 
What ought we to substitute for Descartes' belief that he 
was a thing that thought? There were, of course, two Des- 
cartes, the distinction between whom is what gives rise to 
the problem I wish to discuss. There was Descartes to him- 
self, and Descartes to his friends. He is concerned with what 
he was to himself. What he was to himself is not best de- 
scribed as a single entity with changing states. The single 
entity is quite otiose. The changing states suffice. Descartes 
to himself should have appeared as a series of events, each of 
which might be called a thought, provided that word is liber- 
ally interpreted. What he was to others I will, for the mo- 


ment, ignore. It was this series of "thoughts" which consti- 
tuted Descartes' "mind," but his mind was no more a separate 
entity than the population of New York is a separate entity 
over and above the several inhabitants. Instead of saying 
"Descartes thinks," we ought to say "Descartes is a series of 
which the members are thoughts." And instead of "therefore 
Descartes exists," we ought to say "Since 'Descartes' is the 
name of this series, it follows that 'Descartes' is a name." 
But for the statement "Descartes is a thing which thinks" we 
must substitute nothing whatever, since the statement em- 
bodies nothing but faulty syntax. 

It is time to inquire what we mean by "thoughts" when we 
say that Descartes was a series of thoughts. It would be more 
conventionally correct to say that Descartes' mind was a series 
of thoughts, since his body is generally supposed to have been 
something different. His mind, we may say, was what Des- 
cartes was to himself and to no one else; whereas his body 
was public, and appeared to others as well as to himself. 
Descartes uses the word "thoughts" somewhat more widely 
than it would be used nowadays, and we shall, perhaps, avoid 
confusion if we substitute the phrase "mental phenomena." 
Before we reach what would ordinarily be called "thinking," 
there are more elementary occurrences, which come under 
the heads of "sensation" and "perception." Common sense 
would say that perception always has an object, and that in 
general the object of perception is not mental. Sensation 
and perception would, in common parlance, not count as 
"thoughts." Thoughts would consist of such occurrences as 
memories, beliefs, and desires. Before considering thoughts in 
this narrower sense, I should wish to say a few words about 
sensation and perception. 

Both "sensation" and "perception" are somewhat confused 
concepts, and, as ordinarily defined, it may be doubted 


whether either ever occurs. Let us, therefore, in the first in- 
stance avoid the use of these words, and try to describe what 
occurs with as few doubtful assumptions as possible. 

It frequently happens that a number of people in the same 
environment have very similar experiences at approximately 
the same time. A number of people can hear the same clap 
of thunder, or the same speech by a politician; and the same 
people can see the lightning, or the politician thumping the 
table. We become aware on reflection that there is, in the 
environment of these people, an event which is not identical 
with what is heard or seen. There is only one politician, but 
there is a separate mental occurrence in each of those who 
see and hear him. In this mental occurrence, psychological 
analysis distinguishes two elements: one of them is due to 
those parts of the structure of the individual which he shares 
with other normal members of his species; the other part em- 
bodies results of his past experiences. A certain phrase of the 
politician evokes in one hearer the reaction "That's put the 
scoundrels in their place," and in another the quite different 
reaction, "Never in all my life have I heard such monstrous 
injustice." Not only such somewhat indirect reactions are 
different, but often men will actually hear different words 
because of their prejudices or past experiences. I was present 
in the House of Lords on an occasion when Keynes felt it 
necessary to rebuke Lord Beaverbrook for some statistics that 
the noble journalist had been offering to the House. What 
Keynes said was: "I have never heard statistics so phony" or 
"funny." Half the House thought he said "phony," and the 
other half thought he said "funny." He died almost immedi- 
ately afterward, leaving the question undecided. No doubt 
past experience determined which of the two words any 
given hearer heard. Those who had been much exposed to 
America heard "phony," while those who had led more shel- 


tered lives heard "funny." But in all ordinary cases past ex- 
perience is concerned much more intimately than in the above 
illustration. When you see a solid-looking object, it suggests 
tactile images. If you are accustomed to pianos, but not to 
gramophones or radio, you will, when you hear piano music, 
imagine the hands of the performer on the keys (I have had 
this experience, but it is one not open to the young). When 
in the morning you smell bacon, gustatory images inevitably 
arise. The word "sensation" is supposed to apply to that part 
of the mental occurrence which is not due to past individual 
experience, while the word "perception" applies to the sensa- 
tion together with adjuncts that the past history of the in- 
dividual has rendered inevitable. It is clear that to disentangle 
the part of the total experience which is to be called "sensa- 
tion," is a matter of elaborate psychological theory. What we 
know without theory is the total occurrence which is a 

But the word "perception," as ordinarily used, is question- 
begging. Suppose, for example, that I see a chair, or rather 
that there is an occurrence which would ordinarily be so 
described. The phrase is taken to imply that there is "I" 
and there is a chair, and that the perceiving is a relation be- 
tween the two. I have already dealt with "I," but the chair 
belongs to the physical world, which, for the moment, I am 
trying to ignore. For the moment I will say only this: com- 
mon sense supposes that the chair which I perceive would 
still be there if I did not perceive it, for example, if I shut 
my eyes. Physics and physiology between them assure me 
that what is there independently of my seeing, is something 
very unlike a visual experience, namely, a mad dance of bil- 
lions of electrons undergoing billions of quantum transitions. 
My relation to this object is indirect, and is known only by 
inference; it is not something that I directly experience when- 


ever there is that occurrence which I call "seeing a chair." 
In fact the whole of what occurs when I have the experience 
which I call "seeing a chair" is to be counted as belonging to 
my mental world. If there is a chair which is outside my 
mental world, as I firmly believe, this is something which is 
not a direct object of experience, but is arrived at by a 
process of inference. This conclusion has odd consequences. 
We must distinguish between the physical world of physics, 
and the physical world of our everyday experience. The phy- 
sical world of physics, supposing physics to be correct, exists 
independently of my mental life. From a metaphysical point 
of view, it is solid and self-subsistent, always assuming that 
there is such a world. Per contra, the physical world of my 
everyday experience is a part of my mental life. Unlike the 
physical world of physics, it is not solid, and is no more sub- 
stantial than the world that I see in dreams. On the other hand 
it is indubitable, in a way in which the physical world of phys- 
ics is not. The experience of seeing a chair is one that I can- 
not explain away. I certainly have this experience, even if I 
am dreaming. But the chair of physics, though certainly solid, 
perhaps does not exist. It does not exist if I am dreaming. 
And even if I am awake it may not exist, if there are fallacies 
in certain kinds of inference to which I am prone, but which 
are not demonstrative. In short, as Mr. Micawber would say, 
the physical world of physics is solid but not indubitable, 
while the physical world of daily experience is indubitable 
but not solid. In this statement I am using the word "solid" 
to mean "existing independently of my mental life." 

Let us ask ourselves a very elementary question: What is 
the difference between things that happen to sentient beings 
and things that happen to lifeless matter? Obviously all sorts 
of things happen to lifeless objects. They move and undergo 
various transformations, but they do not "experience" these 


occurrences whereas we do "experience" things that happen 
to us. Most philosophers have treated "experience" as some- 
thing indefinable, of which the meaning is obvious. I regard 
this as a mistake. I do not think the meaning is obvious, but I 
also do not think that it is indefinable. What characterizes ex- 
perience is the influence of past occurrences on present reac- 
tions. When you offer a coin to an automatic machine, it re- 
acts precisely as it has done on former occasions. It does not 
get to know that the offer of a coin means a desire for a ticket, 
or whatever it may be, and it reacts no more promptly than it 
did before. The man at the ticket office, on the contrary, 
learns from experience to react more quickly and to less direct 
stimuli. This is what leads us to call him intelligent. It is this 
sort of thing which is the essence of memory. You see a cer- 
tain person, and he makes a certain remark. The next time you 
see him you remember the remark. This is essentially analo- 
gous to the fact that when you see an object which looks hard, 
you expect a certain kind of tactile sensation if you touch it. 
It is this sort of thing that distinguishes an experience from a 
mere happening. The automatic machine has no experience; 
the man at the ticket office has experience. This means that a 
given stimulus produces always the same reaction in the 
machine, but different reactions in the man. You tell an anec- 
dote, and your hearer replies: "You should have heard how 
I laughed the first time I heard the story." If, however, you 
had constructed an automatic machine that would laugh at a 
joke, it could be relied upon to laugh every time, however 
often it had heard the joke before. You may, perhaps, find 
this thought comforting if you are tempted to adopt a ma- 
terialistic philosophy, 

I think it would be just to say that the most essential char- 
acteristic of mind is memory, using this word in its broadest 
sense to include every influence of past experience on present 


reactions. Memory includes the sort of knowledge which is 
commonly called knowledge of perception. When you merely 
see something it can hardly count as knowledge. It becomes 
knowledge when you say to yourself that you see it, or that 
there it is. This is a reflection upon the mere seeing. This 
reflection is knowledge, and because it is possible, the seeing 
counts as experience and not as a mere occurrence, such as 
might happen to a stone. The influence of past experience is 
embodied in the principle of the conditioned reflex, which 
says that, in suitable circumstances, if A originally produces 
a certain reaction, and A frequently occurs in conjunction 
with B, B alone will ultimately produce the reaction that 
A originally produced. For example: if you wish to teach 
bears to dance, you place them upon a platform so hot that 
they cannot bear to leave a foot on it for more than a mo- 
ment, and meanwhile you play "Rule Britannia" on the or- 
chestra. After a time "Rule Britannia" alone will make them 
dance. Our intellectual life, even in its highest flights, is based 
upon this principle. 

Like all other distinctions, the distinction between what is 
living and what is dead is not absolute. There are viruses 
concerning which specialists cannot make up their minds 
whether to call them living or dead, and the principle of the 
conditioned reflex, though characteristic of what is living, 
finds some exemplification in other spheres. For example: if 
you unroll a roll of paper, it will roll itself up again as soon 
as it can. But in spite of such cases, we may take the condi- 
tioned reflex as characteristic of life, especially in its higher 
forms, and above all as characteristic of human intelligence. 
The relation between mind and matter comes to a head at 
this point. If the brain is to have any characteristic corre- 
sponding to memory, it must be in some way affected by 
what happens to it, in such a manner as to suggest reproduc- 


tion on occasion of a suitable stimulus. This also can be il- 
lustrated in a lesser degree by the behavior of inorganic mat- 
ter. A watercourse which at most times is dry gradually 
wears a channel down a gully at the times when it flows, and 
subsequent rains follow the course which is reminiscent of 
earlier torrents. You may say, if you like, that the river bed 
"remembers" previous occasions when it experienced cooling 
streams. This would be considered a flight of fancy. You 
would say it was a flight of fancy because you are of the 
opinion that rivers and river beds do not "think." But if think- 
ing consists of certain modifications of behavior owing to 
former occurrences, then we shall have to say that the river 
bed thinks, though its thinking is somewhat rudimentary. 
You cannot teach it the multiplication table, however wet 
the climate may be. 

At this point I fear you will be becoming indignant. You 
will be inclined to say: "But, my dear Sir, how can you be 
so dense? Surely even you must know that thoughts and 
pleasures and pains cannot be pushed about like billiard balls, 
whereas matter can. Matter occupies space. It is impenetrable; 
it is hard (unless it is soft); thoughts are not like this. You 
cannot play billiards with your thoughts. When you banish 
a thought, the process is quite different from that of being 
ejected by the police. You, of course, as a philosopher" (so, 
no doubt, you will continue) "are superior to all human 
passions. But the rest of us experience pleasures and pains, and 
sticks and stones do not. In view of all this I cannot under- 
stand how you can be so stupid as to make a mystery of the 
difference between mind and matter." 

My answer to this consists in saying that I know very much 
less than you do about matter. All that I know about matter 
is what I can infer by means of certain abstract postulates 
about the purely logical attributes of its space-time distribu- 


tion, Prima facie, these tell me nothing whatever about its 
other characteristics. Moreover there are the same reasons for 
not admitting the concept of substance in the case of matter, 
as there are in the case of mind. We reduced Descartes' mind 
to a series of occurrences, and we must do the same for his 
body. A piece of matter is a series of occurrences bound to- 
gether by means of certain of the laws of physics. The laws 
that bind these occurrences together are only approximate 
and macroscopic. In proper quantum physics, the identity 
which physical particles preserve in old-fashioned physics dis- 
appears. Suppose I want to say: "This is the same chair as it 
was yesterday." You cannot expect me to tell you accurately 
what I mean, because it would take volumes to state this cor- 
rectly. What I mean may be put roughly as follows: classical 
physics a system now abandoned worked with the assump- 
tion of particles that persist through time. While this concep- 
tion lasted, I could maintain that when I said "This is the 
same chair" I meant "this is composed of the same particles." 
Before the coming of quantum physics, particles were already 
out of date, because they involved the concept of substance. 
But that did not matter so much because it was still possible 
to define a particle as a certain series of physical occurrences, 
connected with one another by the law of inertia and other 
similar principles. Even in the days of the Rutherford-Bohr 
atom, this point of view could still be maintained. The Ruth- 
erford-Bohr atom consisted of a certain number of electrons 
and protons. The electrons behaved like fleas. They crawled 
for a while, and then hopped. But an electron was still recog- 
nizable after the hops as being the same one that had previ- 
ously crawled. Now, alas, the atom has suffered atomic 
disintegration. All that we know about it, even on the most 
optimistic hypothesis, is that it is a distribution of energy 
which undergoes various sudden transitions. It is only the 


transitions of which it is possible to have evidence, for it is 
only in a transition that energy is radiated, it is only when 
energy is radiated that our senses are affected, and it is only 
when our senses are affected that we have evidence as to what 
has occurred. In the happy days when Bohr was young, we 
were supposed to know what was going on in the atom in 
quiet times: there were electrons going round and round the 
nucleus as planets go round the sun. Now we have to confess 
to a complete and absolute and eternally ineradicable igno- 
rance as to what the atom does in quiet times. It is as if it 
were inhabited by newspaper reporters who think nothing 
worth mentioning except revolutions, so that what happens 
when no revolution is going on remains wrapped in mystery. 
On this basis, sameness at different times has completely dis- 
appeared. If you want to explain what you mean in physics 
when you say "This is the same chair as it was yesterday," 
you must go back to classical physics. You must say: when 
temperatures are not too high, and chemical circumstances 
are ordinary, the results obtained by old-fashioned classical 
physics are more or less right. And when I say that "this is 
the same chair/' I shall mean that old-fashioned physics would 
say it was the same chair. But I am well aware that this is no 
more than a convenient and inaccurate way of speaking, and 
that, in fact, every smallest piece of the chair loses its identity 
in about one hundred thousandth part of a second. To say 
that it is the same chair is like saying that the English are the 
same nation as they were in the time of Queen Elizabeth I, 
or rather, like what this would be, if many millions of gen- 
erations had passed since the death of Good Queen Bess. 

We have not yet learned to talk about the human brain in 
the accurate language of quantum physics. Indeed we know 
too little about it for this language to be necessary. The chief 
relevance, to Cur problem, of the mysteries of quantum phys- 


ics consists in their showing us how very little we know about 
matter, and, in particular, about human brains. Some physi- 
ologists still imagine that they can look through a microscope 
and see brain tissues. This, of course, is an optimistic delusion. 
When you think that you look at a chair, you do not see 
quantum transitions. You have an experience which has a 
very lengthy and elaborate causal connection with the physi- 
cal chair, a connection proceeding through photons, rods and 
cones, and optic nerve to the brain. All these stages axe neces- 
sary if you are to have the visual experience which is called 
"seeing the chair." You may stop the photons by closing your 
eyes, the optic nerve may be severed, or the appropriate part 
of the brain may be destroyed by a bullet. If any of these 
things has happened you will not "see the chair." Similar 
considerations apply to the brain that the physiologist thinks 
he is examining. There is an experience in him which has a re- 
mote causal connection with the brain that he thinks he is 
seeing. He can only know concerning that brain such ele- 
ments of structure as will be reproduced in his visual sensa- 
tion. Concerning properties that are not structural, he can 
know nothing whatever. He has no right to say that the con- 
tents of a brain are different from those of the mind that goes 
with it. If it is a living brain, he has evidence through testi- 
mony and analogy that there is a mind that goes with it. If it 
is a dead brain, evidence is lacking either way. 

I wish to suggest, as a hypothesis which is simple and uni- 
fying though not demonstrable, a theory which I prefer to 
that of correspondence advanced by the Cartesians. We have 
agreed that mind and matter alike consist of series of events. 
We have also agreed that we know nothing about the events 
that make matter, except their space-time structure. What I 
suggest is that the events that make a living brain are actually 
identical with those that make the corresponding mind. All 


the reasons that will naturally occur to you for rejecting this 
view depend upon confusing material objects with those that 
you experience in sight and touch. These latter are parts of 
your mind. I can see, at the moment, if I allow myself to talk 
the language of common sense, the furniture of my room, 
the trees waving in the wind, houses, clouds, blue sky, and 
sun. All these common sense imagines to be outside me. All 
these I believe to be causally connected with physical objects 
which are outside me, but as soon as I realize that the physical 
objects must differ in important ways from what I directly 
experience, and as soon as I take account of the causal trains 
that proceed from the physical object to my brain before my 
sensations occur, I see that from the point of view of physical 
causation the immediately experienced objects of sense are 
in my brain and not in the outer world. Kant was right to put 
the starry heavens and the moral law together, since both 
were figments of his brain. 

If what I am saying is correct, the difference between mind 
and brain does not consist in the raw material of which they 
are composed, but in the manner of grouping. A mind and a 
piece of matter alike are to be considered as groups of events, 
or rather series of groups of events. The events that are 
grouped to make a given mind are, according to my theory, 
the very same events that are grouped to make its brain. Or 
perhaps it would be more correct to say that they are some 
of the events that make the brain. The important point is, 
that the difference between mind and brain is not a differ- 
ence of quality, but a difference of arrangement. It is like the 
difference between arranging people in geographical order or 
in alphabetical order, both of which are done in the post 
office directory. The same people are arranged in both cases, 
but in quite different contexts. In like manner the context of 
a visual sensation for physics is physical, and outside the brain. 


Going backward, it takes you to the eye, and thence to a 
photon and thence to a quantum transition in some distant 
object. The context of the visual sensation for psychology is 
quite different. Suppose, for example, the visual sensation is 
that of a telegram saying that you are ruined. A number of 
events will take place in your mind in accordance with the 
laws of psychological causation, and it may be quite a long 
time before there is any purely physical effect, such as tearing 
your hair, or exclaiming "Woe is me!" 

If this theory is right, certain kinds of connection between 
mind and brain are inescapable. Corresponding to memory, 
for example, there must be some physical modifying of the 
brain, and mental life must be connected with physical prop- 
erties of the brain tissue. In fact, if we had more knowledge, 
the physical and psychological statements would be seen to be 
merely different ways of saying the same thing. The ancient 
question of the dependence of mind on brain, or brain on 
mind, is thus reduced to linguistic convenience. In cases where 
we know more about the brain it will be convenient to regard 
the mind as dependent, but in cases where we know more 
about the mind it will be convenient to regard the brain as 
dependent. In either case, the substantial facts are the same, 
and the diff erence is only as to the degree of our knowledge. 

I do not think it can be laid down absolutely, if the above 
is right, that there can be no such thing as disembodied mind. 
There would be disembodied mind if there were groups of 
events connected according to the laws of psychology, but 
not according to the laws of physics. We readily believe that 
dead matter consists of groups of events arranged according 
to the laws of physics, but not according to the laws of psy- 
chology. And there seems no a priori reason why the op- 
posite should not occur. We can say we have no empirical 
evidence of it, but more than this we cannot say. 


Experience has shown me that the theory which I have 
been trying to set forth is one which people are very apt to 
misunderstand, and, as misunderstood, it becomes absurd. I 
will therefore recapitulate its main points in the hope that by 
means of new wording they may become less obscure. 

First: the world is composed of events, not of things with 
changing states, or rather, everything that we have a right to 
say about the world can be said on the assumption that there 
are only events and not things. Things, as opposed to events, 
are an unnecessary hypothesis. This part of what I have to 
say is not exactly new, since it was said by Heraclitus. His 
view, however, annoyed Plato and has therefore ever since 
been considered not quite gentlemanly. In these democratic 
days this consideration need not frighten us. Two kinds of 
supposed entities are dissolved if we adopt the view of Hera- 
clitus: on the one hand, persons, and on the other hand, ma- 
terial objects. Grammar suggests that you and I are more or 
less permanent entities with changing states, but the perma- 
nent entities are unnecessary, and the changing states suffice 
for saying all that we know on the matter. Exactly the same 
sort of thing applies to physical objects. If you go into a shop 
and buy a loaf of bread, you think that you have bought a 
"thing" which you can bring home with you. What you have 
in fact bought is a series of occurrences linked together by 
certain causal laws. 

Second: sensible objects, as immediately experienced, that 
is to say, what we see when we see chairs and tables and the 
sun and the moon and so on, are^garts of our minds and are 
not either the whole or part of the physical objects that 
we think we are seeing. This part of what I am saying is also 
not new. It comes from Berkeley, as reinforced by Hume. 
The arguments that I should use for it, however, are not 
exactly Berkeley's. I should point out that if a number of 


people look at a single object from different points of view, 
their visual impressions differ according to the laws of per- 
spective and according to the way the light falls. Therefore 
no one of the visual impressions is that neutral "thing" which 
all think they are seeing. I should point out also that physics 
leads us to believe in causal chains, starting from objects and 
reaching our sense organs, and that it would be very odd if 
the last link in this causal chain were exactly like the first. 

Third: I should admit that there may be no such thing as a 
physical world distinct from my experiences, but I should 
point out that if the inferences which lead to matter are re- 
jected, I ought also to reject the inferences which lead me to 
believe in my own mental past. I should point out further 
that no one sincerely rejects beliefs which only such infer- 
ences can justify. I therefore take it that there are events which 
I do not experience, although some things about some of 
these can be inferred from what I do experience. Except 
where mental phenomena are concerned, the inferences 
that I can make as to the external causes of my experiences 
are only as to structure, not as to quality. The inferences that 
are warranted are those to be found in theoretical physics; 
they are abstract and mathematical and give no indication 
whatever as to the intrinsic character of physical objects. 

Fourth: if the foregoing is accepted there must be two sorts 
of space, one the sort of space which is known through ex- 
perience, especially in my visual field, the other the sort of 
space that occurs in physics, which is known only by infer- 
ence and is bound up with causal laws. Failure to distinguish 
these two kinds of space is a source of much confusion. I will 
take again the case of a physiologist who is examining some- 
one else's brain. Common sense supposes that he sees that 
brain and that what he sees is matter. Since what he sees is 
obviously quite different from what is being thought by the 


patient whom he is examining, people conclude that mind 
and matter are quite different things. Matter is what the phys- 
iologist sees, mind is what the patient is thinking. But this 
whole order of ideas, if I am right, is a mass of confusions. 
What the physiologist sees, if we mean by this something that 
he experiences, is an event in his own mind and has only an 
elaborate causal connection with the brain that he imagines 
himself to be seeing. This is obvious as soon as we think of 
physics. In the brain that he thinks he is seeing there are 
quantum transitions. These lead to emission of photons, the 
photons travel across the intervening space and hit the eye 
of the physiologist. They then cause complicated occurrences 
in the rods and cones, and a disturbance which travels along 
the optic nerve to the brain. When this disturbance reaches 
the brain, the physiologist has the experience which is called 
"seeing the other man's brain." If anything interferes with the 
causal chain, e.g. because the other man's brain is in darkness, 
because the physiologist has closed his eyes, because the phys- 
iologist is blind, or because he has a bullet in the brain at the 
optic center, he does not have the experience called "seeing 
the other man's brain." Nor does the event occur at the same 
time as what he thinks he sees. In the case of terrestrial ob- 
jects, the difference of time is negligible, but in the case of 
celestial objects it may be very large, even as much as mil- 
lions of years. The relation of a visual experience to the phy- 
sical object that common sense thinks it is seeing is thus in- 
direct and causal, and there is no reason to suppose that close 
similarity between them that common sense imagines to exist. 
All this is connected with the two kinds of space that I 
wrote of a moment ago. I horrified all the philosophers by 
saying that their thoughts were in their heads. With one voice 
they assured me that they had no thoughts in their heads 
whatever, but politeness forbids me to accept this assurance. 


Perhaps, however, it might be well to explain exactly what I 
mean, since the remark is elliptical. Stated accurately, what 
I mean is as follows: physical space, unlike the space of 
perception, is based upon causal contiguity. The causal conti- 
guities of sense perceptions are with the physical stimuli 
immediately preceding them and with the physical reactions 
immediately following them. Precise location in physical space 
belongs not to single events but to such groups of events as 
physics would regard as a momentary state of a piece of mat- 
ter, if it indulged in such old-fashioned language. A thought 
is one of a group of events, such as will count for purposes 
of physics as a region in the brain. To say that a thought is 
in the brain is an abbreviation for the following: a thought 
is one of a group of compresent events, which group is a 
region in the brain. I am not suggesting that thoughts are in 
psychological space, except in the case of sense impressions 
(if these are to be called "thoughts")- 

Fifth: a piece of matter is a group of events connected by 
causal laws, namely, the causal laws of physics. A mind is a 
group of events connected by causal laws, namely, the causal 
laws of psychology. An event is not rendered either mental 
or material by any intrinsic quality, but only by its causal re- 
lations. It is perfectly possible for an event to have both the 
causal relations characteristic of physics and those character- 
istic of psychology. In that case, the event is both mental 
and material at once. There is no more difficulty about this 
than there is about a man being at once a baker and a father. 
Since we know nothing about the intrinsic quality of physical 
events except when these are mental events that we directly 
experience, we cannot say either that the physical world out- 
side our heads is different from the mental world or that it 
is not. The supposed problem of the relations of mind and 
matter arises only through mistakenly treating both as "things" 


and not as groups of events. With the theory that I have 
been suggesting, the whole problem vanishes. 

In favor of the theory that I have been advocating, the most 
important thing to be said is that it removes a mystery. Mys- 
tery is always annoying, and is usually due to lack of clear 
analysis. The relations of mind and matter have puzzled people 
for a long time, but if I am right they need puzzle people 
no longer. 

The Cult of "Common Usage" 

THE most influential school of philosophy in Britain at 
the present day maintains a certain linguistic doctrine 
to which I am unable to subscribe. I do not wish to 
misrepresent this school, but I suppose any opponent of any 
doctrine is thought to misrepresent it by those who hold it. 
The doctrine, as I understand it, consists in maintaining that 
the language of daily life, with words used in their ordinary 
meanings, suffices for philosophy, which has no need of tech- 
nical terms or of changes in the signification of common 
terms. I find myself totally unable to accept this view. I object 
to it: 

(1) Because it is insincere; 

(2) Because it is capable of excusing ignorance of mathe- 
matics, physics, and neurology in those who have had only 
a classical education; 

(3) Because it is advanced by some in a tone of unctuous 
rectitude, as if opposition to it were a sin against democracy; 

(4) Because it makes philosophy trivial; 

(5) Because it makes almost inevitable the perpetuation 
among philosophers of the muddle-headedness they have taken 
over from common sense. 

(i). Insincerity. I will illustrate this by a fable. The Pro- 
fessor of Mental Philosophy, when called by his bedmaker 
one morning, developed a dangerous frenzy, and had to be 
taken away by the police in an ambulance. I heard a col- 
league, a believer in "common usage," asking the poor philos- 
opher's doctor about the occurrence. The doctor replied that 


i6 7 

the professor had had an attack of temporary psychotic in- 
stability, which had subsided after an hour. The believer in 
"common usage," so far from objecting to the doctor's lan- 
guage, repeated it to other inquirers. But it happened that I, 
who live on the professor's staircase, overheard the following 
dialogue between the bedmaker and the policeman: 

Policeman. 'Ere, I want a word with yer. 

Bedmaker. What do you mean "A word"? I ain't done 

Policeman. Ah, that's just it. Yer ought to 'ave done some- 
thing. Couldn't yer see the pore gentleman was mental? 

Bedmaker. That I could. For an 'ole hour 'e went on some- 
thing chronic. But when they're mental you can't make them 

In this little dialogue, "word," "mean," "mental," and 
"chronic" are all used in accordance with common usage. 
They are not so used in the pages of "Mind" by those who 
pretend that common usage is what they believe in. What 
in fact they believe in is not common usage, as determined by 
mass observation, statistics, medians, standard deviations, and 
the rest of the apparatus. What they believe in is the usage 
of persons who have their amount of education, neither more 
nor less. Less is illiteracy, more is pedantry so we are given 
to understand. 

(2). An excuse for ignorance. Every motorist is accus- 
tomed to speedometers and accelerators, but unless he has 
learned mathematics he attaches no precise significance to 
"speed" or "acceleration." If he does attach a precise signifi- 
cance to these words, he will know that his speed and his 
acceleration are at every moment unknowable, and that, if 
he is fined for speeding, the conviction must be based on in- 
sufficient evidence if the time when he is supposed to have 
speeded is mentioned. On these grounds I will agree with the 


advocate of common usage that such a word as "speed," if 
used in daily life, must be used as in daily life, and not as in 
mathematics. But then it should be realized that "speed" is a 
vague notion, and that equal truth may attach to all three of 
the statements in the conjugation of the following irregular 

"I was at rest" (motorist). 

"You were moving at 20 miles an hour" (a friend). 

"He was traveling at 60 miles an hour" (the police). 
It is because this state of affairs is puzzling to magistrates 
that mathematicians have abandoned common usage. 

(3). Those who advocate common usage in philosophy 
sometimes speak in a manner that suggests the mystique of the 
"common man." They may admit that in organic chemistry 
there is need of long words, and that quantum physics re- 
quires formulas that are difficult to translate into ordinary 
English, but philosophy (they think) is different. It is not the 
function of philosophy so they maintain to teach some- 
thing that uneducated people do not know; on the contrary, 
its function is to teach superior persons that they are not as 
superior as they thought they were, and that those who are 
really superior can show their skill by making sense of com- 
mon sense. 

It is, of course, a dreadful thing in these days to lay claim 
to any kind of superiority except in athletics, movies, and 
money-making. Nevertheless I will venture to say that in 
former centuries common sense made what we now think 
mistakes. It used to be thought that there could not be people 
at the antipodes, because they would fall off, or, if they 
avoided that, they would grow dizzy from standing on their 
heads. It used to be thought absurd to say that the earth 
rotates, because everybody can see that it doesn't. When it 
was first suggested that the sun may be as large as the Pelo- 


ponnesus, common sense was outraged. But all this was long 
ago. I do not know at what date common sense became all- 
wise. Perhaps it was in 1776; perhaps in 1848; or perhaps 
with the passing of the Education Act in 1870. Or perhaps 
it was only when physiologists such as Adrian and Sherring- 
ton began to make scientific inroads on philosophers' ideas 
about perception. 

(4) . Philosophy, as conceived by the school I am discuss- 
ing, seems to me a trivial and uninteresting pursuit. To discuss 
endlessly what silly people mean when they say silly things 
may be amusing but can hardly be important. Does the full 
moon look as large as a half-crown or as large as a soup 
plate? Either answer can be proved correct by experiment. 
It follows that there is an ambiguity in the question. A mod- 
ern philosopher will clear up the ambiguity for you with 
meticulous care. 

But let us take an example which is less unfair, say the 
question of immortality. Orthodox Christianity asserts that 
we survive death. What does it mean by this assertion? And 
in what sense, if any, is the assertion true? The philosophers 
with whom I am concerned will consider the first of these 
questions, but will say that the second is none of their busi- 
ness. I agree entirely that, in this case, a discussion as to what 
is meant is important and highly necessary as a preliminary 
to a consideration of the substantial question, but if nothing 
can be said on the substantial question, it seems a waste 
of time to discuss what it means. These philosophers remind 
me of the shopkeeper of whom I once asked the shortest way 
to Winchester. He called to a man in the back premises: 

"Gentleman wants to know the shortest way to Win- 

"Winchester?" an unseen voice replied. 



"Way to Winchester?" 


"Shortest way?" 



He wanted to get the nature of the question clear, but took 
no interest in answering it. This is exactly what modern 
philosophy does for the earnest seeker after truth. Is it sur- 
prising that young people turn to other studies? 

(5). Common sense, though all very well for everyday 
purposes, is easily confused, even by such simple questions as 
"Where is the rainbow?" When you hear a voice on a gramo- 
phone record, are you hearing the man who spoke or a repro- 
duction? When you feel a pain in a leg that has been ampu- 
tated, where is the pain? If you say it is in your head, would 
it be in your head if the leg had not been amputated? If you 
say yes, then what reason have you ever for thinking you 
have a leg? And so on. 

No one wants to alter the language of common sense, any 
more than we wish to give up talking of the sun rising and 
setting. But astronomers find a different language better, 
and I contend that a different language is better in philos- 

Let us take an example. A philosophy containing such a 
large linguistic element cannot object to the question: What is 
meant by the word "word"? But I do not see how this is to 
be answered within the vocabulary of common sense. Let 
us take the word "cat," and for the sake of definiteness let us 
take the written word. Clearly there are many instances of 
the word, no one of which is the word. If I say "Let us dis- 
cuss the word 'cat,' " the word "cat" does not occur in what 
I say, but only an instance of the word. The word itself is 
no part of the sensible world; if it is anything, it is an eternal 


supersensible entity in a Platonic heaven. The word, we may 
say, is a class of similar shapes, and, like all classes, is a logical 

But our difficulties are not at an end. Similarity is neither 
necessary nor sufficient to make a shape a member of the 
class which is the word "cat." The word may be written in 
capitals or in small letters, legibly or illegibly, in black on a 
white ground or in white on a blackboard. If I write the 
word "catastrophe," the first three letters do not constitute 
an instance of the word "cat." The most necessary thing in 
an instance of the word is intention. If a piece of marble hap- 
pened to have a vein making the shape "cat" we should not 
think this an instance of the word. 

It thus appears that we cannot define the word "word" 
without (a) a logical theory of classes, and (b) a psycho- 
logical understanding of intention. These are difficult mat- 
ters. I conclude that common sense, whether correct or in- 
correct in the use of words, does not know in the least what 
words are I wish I could believe that this conclusion would 
render it speechless. 

Let us take another problem, that of perception. There is 
here an admixture of philosophical and scientific questions, but 
this admixture is inevitable in many questions, or, if not in- 
evitable, can only be avoided by confining ourselves to com- 
paratively unimportant aspects of the matter in hand. 

Here is a series of questions and answers. 

Q. When I see a table, will what I see be still there if I 
shut my eyes? 

A. That depends upon the sense in which you use the word 


Q. What is still there when I shut my eyes? 
A. This is an empirical question. Don't bother me with it, 
but ask the physicists. 


Q. What exists when my eyes are open, but not when they 
are shut? 

A. This again is empirical, but in deference to previous 
philosophers I will answer you: colored surfaces. 

Q. May I infer that there are two senses of "see"? In the 
first, when I "see" a table, I "see" something conjectural about 
which physics has vague notions that are probably wrong. 
In the second, I "see" colored surfaces which cease to exist 
when I shut my eyes. 

A. That is correct if you want to think clearly, but our 
philosophy makes clear thinking unnecessary. By oscillating 
between the two meanings, we avoid paradox and shock, 
which is more than most philosophers do. 

Knowledge and Wisdom 

MOST people would agree that, although our age far 
surpasses all previous ages in knowledge, there has 
been no correlative increase in wisdom. But agree- 
ment ceases as soon as we attempt to define "wisdom" and 
consider means of promoting it. I want to ask first what 
wisdom is, and then what can be done to teach it. 

There are, I think, several factors that contribute to wis- 
dom. Of these I should put first a sense of proportion: the 
capacity to take account of all the important factors in a prob- 
lem and to attach to each its due weight. This has become 
more difficult than it used to be owing to the extent and 
complexity of the specialized knowledge required of various 
kinds of technicians. Suppose, for example, that you are en- 
gaged in research in scientific medicine. The work is difficult 
and is likely to absorb the whole of your intellectual energy. 
You have not time to consider the effect which your dis- 
coveries or inventions may have outside the field of medicine. 
You succeed (let us say) , as modern medicine has succeeded, 
in enormously lowering the infant death rate, not only in 
Europe and America, but also in Asia and Africa. This has 
the entirely unintended result of making the food supply in- 
adequate and lowering the standard of life in the most popu- 
lous parts of the world. To take an even more spectacular ex- 
ample, which is in everybody's mind at the present time: You 
study the composition of the atom from a disinterested desire 
for knowledge, and incidentally place in the hands of power- 
ful lunatics the means of destroying the human race. In such 



ways the pursuit of knowledge may become harmful unless it 
is combined with wisdom; and wisdom in the sense of com- 
prehensive vision is not necessarily present in specialists in the 
pursuit of knowledge. 

Comprehensiveness alone, however, is not enough to con- 
stitute wisdom. There must be, also, a certain awareness of the 
ends of human life. This may be illustrated by the study of 
history. Many eminent historians have done more harm than 
good because they viewed facts through the distorting medium 
of their own passions. Hegel had a philosophy of history 
which did not suffer from any lack of comprehensiveness, 
since it started from the earliest times and continued into an 
indefinite future. But the chief lesson of history which he 
sought to inculcate was that from the year A.D. 400 down to 
his own time Germany had been the most important nation 
and the standard bearer of progress in the world. Perhaps 
one could stretch the comprehensiveness that constitutes wis- 
dom to include not only intellect but also feeling. It is by no 
means uncommon to find men whose knowledge is wide but 
whose feelings are narrow. Such men lack what I am calling 

It is not only in public ways, but in private life equally, that 
wisdom is needed. It is needed in the choice of ends to be 
pursued and in emancipation from personal prejudice. Even 
an end which it would be noble to pursue if it were attainable 
may be pursued unwisely if it is inherently impossible of 
achievement. Many men in past ages devoted their lives to a 
search for the philosopher's stone and the elixir of life. No 
doubt, if they could have found them, they would have con- 
ferred great benefits upon mankind, but as it was their lives 
were wasted. To descend to less heroic matters, consider the 
case of two men, Mr. A and Mr. B, who hate each other and, 
through mutual hatred, bring each other to destruction. Sup- 


pose you go to Mr. A and say, "Why do you hate Mr. B?" 
He will no doubt give you an appalling list of Mr. B's vices, 
partly true, partly false. And now suppose you go to Mr. B. 
He will give you an exactly similar list of Mr. A's vices with 
an equal admixture of truth and falsehood. Suppose you now 
come back to Mr. A and say, "You will be surprised to learn 
that Mr. B says the same things about you as you say about 
him," and you go to Mr. B and make a similar speech. The 
first effect, no doubt, will be to increase their mutual hatred, 
since each will be so horrified by the other's injustice. But 
perhaps, if you have sufficient patience and sufficient persua- 
siveness, you may succeed in convincing each that the other 
has only the normal share of human wickedness, and that their 
enmity is harmful to both. If you can do this, you will have 
instilled some fragment of wisdom. 

I think the essence of wisdom is emancipation, as far as pos- 
sible, from the tyranny of the here and the now. We cannot 
help the egoism of our senses. Sight and sound and touch are 
bound up with our own bodies and cannot be made imper- 
sonal Our emotions start similarly from ourselves. An infant 
feels hunger or discomfort, and is unaffected except by his own 
physical condition. Gradually with the years, his horizon 
widens, and, in proportion as his thoughts and feelings become 
less personal and less concerned with his own physical states, 
he achieves growing wisdom. This is of course a matter of de- 
gree. No one can view the world with complete impartiality; 
and if anyone could, he would hardly be able to remain alive. 
But it is possible to make a continual approach toward im- 
partiality, on the one hand, by knowing things somewhat re- 
mote in time or space, and, on the other hand, by giving to 
such things their due weight in our feelings. It is this approach 
toward impartiality that constitutes growth in wisdom. 

Can wisdom in this sense be taught? And, if it can, should 


the teaching of it be one of the aims of education? I should 
answer both these questions in the affirmative. We are told on 
Sundays that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. On 
the other six days of the week, we are exhorted to hate him. 
You may say that this is nonsense, since it is not our neighbor 
whom we are exhorted to hate. But you will remember that 
the precept was exemplified by saying that the Samaritan was 
our neighbor. We no longer have any wish to hate Samaritans 
and so we are apt to miss the point of the parable. If you 
want to get its point, you should substitute Communist or 
anti-Communist, as the case may be, for Samaritan. It might 
be objected that it is right to hate those who do harm. I do 
not think so. If you hate them, it is only too likely that you 
will become equally harmful; and it is very unlikely that you 
will induce them to abandon their evil ways. Hatred of evil is 
itself a kind of bondage to evil. The way out is through 
understanding, not through hate. I am not advocating non- 
resistance. But I am saying that resistance, if it is to be effective 
in preventing the spread of evil, should be combined with the 
greatest degree of understanding and the smallest degree of 
force that is compatible with the survival of the good things 
that we wish to preserve. 

It is commonly urged that a point of view such as I have 
been advocating is incompatible with vigor in action. I do 
not think history bears out this view. Queen Elizabeth I in 
England and Henri IV in France lived in a world where 
almost everybody was fanatical, either on the Protestant or on 
the Catholic side. Both remained free from the errors of their 
time and both, by remaining free, were beneficent and cer- 
tainly not ineffective. Abraham Lincoln conducted a great war 
without ever departing from what I have been calling wisdom. 

I have said that in some degree wisdom can be taught. I 
think that this teaching should have a larger intellectual ele- 


ment than has been customary in what has been thought of 
as moral instruction. I think that the disastrous results of ha- 
tred and narrow-mindedness to those who feel them can be 
pointed out incidentally in the course of giving knowledge. 
I do not think that knowledge and morals ought to be too 
much separated. It is true that the kind of specialized knowl- 
edge which is required for various kinds of skill has very little 
to do with wisdom. But it should be supplemented in educa- 
tion by wider surveys calculated to put it in its place in the 
total of human activities. Even the best technicians should 
also be good citizens; and when I say "citizens," I mean citizens 
of the world and not of this or that sect or nation. With every 
increase of knowledge and skill, wisdom becomes more neces- 
sary, for every such increase augments our capacity of realiz- 
ing our purposes, and therefore augments our capacity for evil, 
if our purposes are unwise. The world needs wisdom as it has 
never needed it before; and if knowledge continues to increase, 
the world will need wisdom in the future even more than it 
does now. 

A Philosophy for Our Time 

A -HOUGH this is my subject I do not think that the 
tasks of philosophy in our time are in any way differ- 
ent from its tasks at other times. Philosophy has, I 
believe, a certain perennial value, which is unchanging except 
in one respect: that some ages depart from wisdom more 
widely than others do, and have, therefore, more need of phi- 
losophy combined with less willingness to accept it. Our age 
is in many respects one which has little wisdom, and which 
would therefore profit greatly by what philosophy has to 

The value of philosophy is partly in relation to thought and 
partly in relation to feeling, though its effects in these two 
ways are closely interconnected. On the theoretical side it is 
a help in understanding the universe as a whole, in so far as 
this is possible. On the side of feeling it is a help toward a just 
appreciation of the ends of human life. I propose to consider 
first what philosophy can do for our thoughts, and then what 
it can do for our feelings. 

The Here and the Now 

The first thing that philosophy does, or should do, is to 
enlarge intellectual imagination. Animals, including human 
beings, view the world from a center consisting of the here 
and the now. Our senses, like a candle in the night, spread a 
gradually diminishing illumination upon objects as they be- 
come more distant. But we never get away from the fact that 
in our animal life we are compelled to view everything from 
just one standpoint. 



Science attempts to escape from this geographical and 
chronological prison. In physics the origin of co-ordinates in 
space-time is wholly arbitrary, and the physicist aims at say- 
ing things which have nothing to do with his point of view 
but would be equally true for an inhabitant of Sirius or of an 
extra-galactic nebula. 

Here again there are stages in emancipation. History and 
geology take us away from the now, astronomy takes us away 
from the here. The man whose mind has been filled with these 
studies gets a feeling that there is something accidental, and 
almost trivial, about the fact that his ego occupies a very 
particular portion of the space-time stream. His intellect be- 
comes gradually more and more detached from these physical 
needs. It acquires in this way a generality and scope and 
power which is impossible to one whose thoughts are 
bounded by his animal wants. 

Up to a point this is recognized in all civilized countries. 
A learned man is not expected to grow his own food and is 
relieved to a considerable extent of the useless expenditure of 
time and worry on the mere problem of keeping alive. It is, of 
course, only through this social mechanism that an impersonal 
outlook is in any degree possible. We all become absorbed in 
our animal wants in so far as is necessary for survival, but it 
has been found useful that men with certain kinds of capacity 
should be free to develop a way of thinking and feeling which 
is not bounded by their own need. This is done to some extent 
by the acquisition of any branch of knowledge, but it is done 
most completely by the sort of general survey that is char- 
acteristic of philosophy. 

Different Pictures of the Universe 

If you read the systems of the great philosophers of the past 
you will find that there are a number of different pictures of 


the universe which have seemed good to men with a certain 
kind of imagination. Some have thought that there is nothing 
in the world but mind, that physical objects are really phan- 
toms. Others have thought that there is nothing but matter, 
and that what we call "mind" is only an odd way in which 
certain kinds of matter behave. I am not at the moment con- 
cerned to say that any one of these ways of viewing the world 
is more true or otherwise more desirable than another. What I 
am concerned to say is that practice in appreciating these dif- 
ferent world pictures stretches the mind and makes it more 
receptive of new and perhaps fruitful hypotheses. 

There is another intellectual use which philosophy ought 
to have, though in this respect it not infrequently fails. It 
ought to inculcate a realization of human fallibility and of the 
uncertainty of many things which to the uneducated seem 
indubitable. Children at first will refuse to believe that the 
earth is round and will assert passionately that they can see 
that it is flat. 

But the more important applications of the kind of uncer- 
tainty that I have in mind are in regard to such things as 
social systems and theologies. When we have acquired the 
habit of impersonal thinking we shall be able to view the pop- 
ular beliefs of our own nation, our own class, or our own reli- 
gious sect with the same detachment with which we view 
those of others. We shall discover that the beliefs that are held 
most firmly and most passionately are very often those for 
which there is least evidence. When one large body of men 
believes A, and another large body of men believes B, there is 
a tendency of each body to hate the other for believing any- 
thing so obviously absurd. 

The best cure for this tendency is the practice of going by 
the evidence, and forgoing certainty where evidence is lack- 
ing. This applies not only to theological and political beliefs 


but also to social customs. The study of anthropology shows 
that an amazing variety of social customs exists, and that so- 
cieties can persist with habits that might be thought contrary 
to human nature. This kind of knowledge is very valuable as 
an antidote to dogmatism, especially in our own day when 
rival dogmatisms are the chief danger that threatens mankind. 

Closely parallel to the development of impersonal thought 
there is the development of impersonal feeling, which is at 
least equally important and which ought equally to result from 
a philosophical outlook. Our desires, like our senses, are pri- 
marily self-centered. The egocentric character of our desires 
interferes with our ethics. In the one case, as in the other, 
what is to be aimed at is not a complete absence of the animal 
equipment that is necessary for life but the addition to it of 
something wider, more general, and less bound up with per- 
sonal circumstances. We should not admire a parent who had 
no more affection for his own children than for those of 
others, but we should admire a man who from love of his 
own children is led to a general benevolence. We should not 
admire a man, if such a man there were, who was so indiffer- 
ent to food as to become undernourished, but we should ad- 
mire the man who from knowledge of his own need of food 
is led to a general sympathy with the hungry. 

What philosophy should do in matters of feeling is very 
closely analogous to what it should do in matters of thought. 
It should not subtract from the personal life but should add 
to it. Just as the philosopher's intellectual survey is wider than 
that of an uneducated man, so also the scope of his desires and 
interests should be wider. Buddha is said to have asserted that 
he could not be happy so long as even one human being was 
suffering. This is carrying things to an extreme and, if taken 
literally, would be excessive, but it illustrates that universaliz- 
ing of feeling of which I am speaking. A man who has acquired 


a philosophical way of feeling, and not only of thinking, will 
note what things seem to him good and bad in his own ex- 
perience, and will wish to secure the former and avoid the 
latter for others as well as for himself. 

Roots of Social Progress 

Ethics, like science, should be general and should be eman- 
cipated, as far as this is humanly possible, from tyranny of the 
here and now. There is a simple rule by which ethical maxims 
can be tested, and it is this: "No ethical maxim must contain a 
proper name." I mean by a proper name any designation of 
a particular part of space-time; not only the names of indi- 
vidual people but also the names of regions, countries, and his- 
torical periods. And when I say that ethical maxims should 
have this character I am suggesting something more than a 
cold intellectual assent, for, so long as that is all, a maxim 
may have very little influence on conduct. I mean something 
more active, something in the nature of actual desire or im- 
pulse, something which has its root in sympathetic imagina- 
tion. It is from feelings of this generalized sort that most social 
progress has sprung and must still spring. If your hopes and 
wishes are confined to yourself, or your family, or your na- 
tion, or your class, or the adherents of your creed, you will 
find that all your affections and all your kindly feelings are 
paralleled by dislikes and hostile sentiments. From such a du- 
ality in men's feelings spring almost all the major evils in 
human life cruelties, oppressions, persecutions, and wars. If 
our world is to escape the disasters which threaten it men 
must learn to be less circumscribed in their sympathies. 

This has no doubt always been true in a measure but it is 
more true now than it ever was before. Mankind, owing to 
science and scientific technique, are unified for evil but are not 
yet unified for good. They have learned the technique of 


world-wide mutual destruction but not the more desirable 
technique of world-wide co-operation. The failure to lealn 
this more desirable technique has its source in emotional limi- 
tations, in the confining of sympathy to one's own group, and 
in indulgence in hatred and fear toward other groups. 

World- wide co-operation with our present technique could 
abolish poverty and war, and could bring to all mankind a 
level of happiness and well-being such as has never hitherto ex- 
isted. But although this is obvious men still prefer to confine 
co-operation to their own groups and to indulge toward 
other groups a fierce hostility which fills daily life with ter- 
rifying visions of disaster. The reasons for this absurd and 
tragic inability to behave as everybody's interests would dic- 
tate lie not in anything external but in our own emotional 
nature. If we could feel in our moments of vision as imperson- 
ally as a man of science can think, we should see the folly of 
our divisions and contests, and we should soon perceive that 
our own interests are compatible with those of others but are 
not compatible with the desire to bring others to ruin. Fa- 
natical dogmatism, which is one of the great evils of our time, 
is primarily an intellectual defect and, as I suggested before, 
it is one to which philosophy supplies an intellectual antidote, 
But a great deal of dogmatism has also an emotional source: 
namely, fear. It is felt that only the closest social unity is 
adequate to meet the enemy and that the slightest deviation 
from orthodoxy will have a weakening effect in war. Fright- 
ened populations are intolerant populations. I do not think 
they are wise in this. Fear seldom inspires rational action and 
very often inspires action which increases the very danger 
that is feared. 

This certainly is the case with the irrational dogmatism that 
has been spreading over large parts of the world. Where dan- 
ger is real the impersonal kind of feeling that philosophy 


should generate is the best cure. Spinoza, who was perhaps 
the best example of the way of feeling of which I am speak- 
ing, remained completely calm at all times, and in the last day 
of his life preserved the same friendly interest in others as he 
had shown in days of health. To a man whose hopes and wishes 
extend widely beyond his personal life there is not the same 
occasion for fear that there is for a man of more limited 
desires. He can reflect that when he is dead there will be 
others to carry on his work and that even the greatest dis- 
asters of past times have sooner or later been overcome. He 
can see the human race as a unity and history as a gradual 
emergence from animal subjection to nature. It is easier for 
him than it would be if he had no philosophy to avoid frantic 
panic and to develop a capacity for stoic endurance in mis- 
fortune. I do not pretend that such a man will always be 
happy. It is scarcely possible to be always happy in a world 
such as that in which we find ourselves, but I do think that 
the true philosopher is less likely than others are to suffer 
from baffled despair and fascinated terror in the contempla- 
tion of possible disaster. 

A Plea for Clear Thinking 

WORDS have two functions: on the one hand to state 
facts, and on the other to evoke emotions. The 
latter is their older function, and is performed 
among animals by cries which antedate language. One of the 
most important elements in the transition from barbarism to 
civilization is the increasing use of words to indicate rather 
than to excite, but in politics little has been done in this direc- 
tion. If I say the area of Hungary is so many square kilo- 
meters, I am making a purely informative statement, but when 
I say that the area of the U.S.S.R. is one sixth of the land 
surface of the globe, my statement is mainly emotional. 

The Meaning of "Democracy" 

All the stock words of political controversy, in spite of 
having a definite dictionary meaning, have in use meanings 
which differ according to the political affiliation of the speaker, 
and agree only in their power of rousing violent emotions. 
The word "liberty" originally meant chiefly absence of alien 
domination; then it came to mean restrictions of royal power; 
then, in the days of the "rights of man," it came to denote 
various respects in which it was thought that each individual 
should be free from governmental interference; and then at 
last, in the hands of Hegel, it came to be "true liberty," which 
amounted to little more than gracious permission to obey 
the police. In our day, the word "democracy" is going 
through a similar transformation: it used to mean government 
by a majority, with a somewhat undefined modicum of per- 



sonal freedom; it then came to mean the aims of the political 
party that represented the interests of the poor, on the ground 
that the poor everywhere are the majority. At the next stage 
it represented the aims of the leaders of that party. It has 
now come, throughout Eastern Europe and a large part of 
Asia, to mean despotic government by those who were in 
some former time champions of the poor, but who now con- 
fine such championship exclusively to inflicting ruin upon the 
rich, except when the rich are "democratic" in the new sense. 
This is a very potent and successful method of political agita- 
tion. Men who have long heard a certain word with a certain 
emotion are apt to feel the same emotion when they hear the 
same word, even if its meaning is changed. If, some years 
hence, volunteers are required for a trial journey to the moon, 
they will be more easily obtained if that satellite is rechris- 
tened "home sweet home." 

It should be a part of education, as it is of science and 
scientific philosophy, to teach the young to use words with a 
precise meaning, rather than with a vague mist of emotion. 
I know from observation that the pursuit of scientific phi- 
losophy is practically effective in this respect. Two or three 
years before the outbreak of the late war I attended an in- 
ternational congress of scientific philosophy in Paris. Those 
who attended belonged to a great variety of nations, and their 
governments were engaged in acrimonious disputes which it 
seemed practically hopeless to settle except by force. The 
members of the congress in their professional hours discussed 
abstruse points of logic or theory of knowledge, apparently 
wholly divorced from the world of affairs, but in their un- 
professional moments they debated all the most vexed ques- 
tions of international politics. Not once did I hear any of 
them display patriotic bias or fail through passion to give due 
weight to arguments adverse to his national interest. If that 


congress could have taken over the government of the world, 
and been protected by Martians from the fury of all the fa- 
natics whom they would have outraged, they could have 
come to just decisions without being compelled to ignore the 
protests of indignant minorities among themselves. If the 
governments of their several countries had so chosen, they 
could have educated the young to an equal degree of im- 
partiality. But they did not so choose. Governments in their 
schools are only too ready to foster the germs of irrationality, 
hatred, suspicion and envy, which are all too easily fructified 
in human minds. 

Political passion is so virulent and so natural to man that the 
accurate use of language cannot well be first taught in the 
political sphere; it is easier to begin with words that arouse 
comparatively little passion. The first effect of a training in 
intellectual neutrality is apt to look like cynicism. Take, 
say, the word "truth," a word which some people use with 
awe, and others, like Pontius Pilate, with derision. It produces 
a shock when the learner first hears such a statement as "truth 
is a property of sentences," because he is accustomed to think 
of sentences neither as grand nor as ridiculous. Or take again 
the word "infinity"; people will tell you that a finite mind 
cannot comprehend the infinite, but if you ask them "what 
do you mean by 'infinite,' and in what sense is a human mind 
finite?" they will at once lose their tempers. In fact, the word 
"infinite" has a perfectly precise meaning which has been as- 
signed to it by the mathematicians, and which is quite as com- 
prehensible as anything else in mathematics. 

Experience in the technique of taking the emotion out of 
words and substituting a clear logical significance will stand a 
man in good stead if he wishes to keep his head amid the 
welter of excited propaganda. In 1917, Wilson proclaimed the 
great principle of self-determination, according to which 


every nation had a right to direct its own affairs; but unfortu- 
nately he forgot to append the definition of the word "na- 
tion." Was Ireland a nation? Yes, certainly. Was northeast 
Ulster a nation? Protestants said yes, and Catholics said no, 
and the dictionary was silent. To this day this question re- 
mains undecided, and the controversies in regard to it are 
liable to influence the policy of the United States toward 
Great Britain. In Petrograd, as it then was, during the time 
of Kerensky, a certain single house proclaimed itself a nation 
rightly struggling to be free, and appealed to President Wilson 
to give it a separate Parliament. This, however, was felt to be 
going too far. If President Wilson had been trained in logical 
accuracy he would have appended a footnote saying that a 
nation must contain not less than some assigned number of 
individuals. This, however, would have made his principle ar- 
bitrary and would have robbed it of rhetorical force. 

Translating Problems into m Abstract Form 
One useful technique which scientific philosophy teaches 
consists in the transformation of every problem from a con- 
crete to an abstract form. Take, for example, the following: 
Had the Irish the right to object to being included with Great 
Britain in one democratic government? Every American Rad- 
ical would say yes. Have the Moslems the same right as 
against the Hindus? Nine out of ten American Radicals 
would formerly have said no. I do not suggest that either of 
these problems can be solved by being stated in abstract 
terms, but I do say that, when for the two concrete problems 
we substitute a single abstract problem in which the letters 
A and B replace the names of nations or communities about 
which we have strong feelings, it becomes very much easier to 
see what sort of considerations ought to be involved in ar- 
riving at any impartial solution. 


Political problems cannot be solved either by correct 
thinking alone, or by right feeling alone: correct thinking can 
contribute neutrality in the estimation of facts, but right feel- 
ing is needed to give dynamic force to knowledge. Unless a 
wish for the general welfare exists, no amount of knowledge 
will inspire action calculated to promote the happiness of 
mankind. But many men, owing to confused thinking, can 
act under the direction of bad passions without any realiza- 
tion that they are doing so, and when, by purely intellectual 
means, this realization is brought home to them, they can 
often be induced to act in a manner which is less harsh and 
less apt to promote strife. I am firmly persuaded that if schools 
throughout the world were under a single international au- 
thority, and if this authority devoted itself to clarifying the 
use of words calculated to promote passion, the existing ha- 
treds between nations, creeds, and political parties would very 
rapidly diminish, and the preservation of peace throughout the 
world would become an easy matter. Meanwhile, those who 
stand for clear thinking and against mutual disastrous enmities 
have to work, not only against passions to which human na- 
ture is all too prone, but also against great organized forces of 
intolerance and insane self-assertion. In this struggle clear 
logical thinking, though only one of the actors, has a definite 
part to play. 

History As an Art 

I AM approaching the subject of this essay with consider- 
able trepidation. I know that among my readers there 
are professional historians whom I greatly respect, and 
I should not at all wish to seem desirous of instructing them 
as to how their work should be done. I shall write as a con- 
sumer, not a producer. In shops they have a maxim: "The 
customer is always right." But academic persons (among 
whom I should wish to include myself) are more lordly than 
shopkeepers: if the consumer does not like what he is offered, 
that is because he is a Philistine and because he does not know 
what is good for him. Up to a point I sympathize with this 
attitude. It would never do for a mathematician to try to 
please the general reader. The physical sciences in their seri- 
ous aspects must be addressed primarily to specialists, though 
their more adventurous practitioners write occasional books 
designed to make your flesh creep. But such books are not re- 
garded by their fellow scientists as part of their serious work, 
and detract from, rather than add to, their professional reputa- 
tion. I think that in this respect history is in a position differ- 
ent from that of mathematics and physical science. There 
have to be physicists, worse luck, and there have to be mathe- 
maticians until calculating machines become cheaper, but 
when that happy consummation has been reached, there will 
be no point in teaching anybody to do sums, and the multipli- 
cation table can be placed alongside the birch as an out-of-date 
instrument of education. But history seems to me to be in a 
different category. The multiplication table, though useful, 



can hardly be called beautiful. It is seldom that essential wis- 
dom in regard to human destiny is to be found by remember- 
ing even its more difficult items. History, on the other hand, 
is so I shall contend a desirable part of everybody's mental 
furniture in the same kind of way as is generally recognized 
in the case of poetry. If history is to fulfill this function, it can 
only do so by appealing to those who are not professional 
historians. I have myself always found very great interest in 
the reading of history, and I have been grateful to those 
historians who gave me what I, as a consumer, though not a 
producer, was looking for in their books. It is from this 
point of view that I wish to write. I wish to set forth what 
those who are not historians ought to get from history. And 
this is a theme upon which you will, I think, admit that non- 
historians have a right to express an opinion. 

There has been much argumentation, to my mind some- 
what futile, as to whether history is a science or an art. It 
should, I think, have been entirely obvious that it is both. 
Trevelyan's Social History of England indubitably deserves 
praise from the artistic point of view, but I remember finding 
in it a statement to the effect that England's maritime great- 
ness was due to a change in the habits of herrings. I know 
nothing about herrings, so I accept this statement on author- 
ity. My point is that it is a piece of science, and that its scien- 
tific character in no way detracts from the artistic value of 
Trevelyan's work. Nevertheless, the work of historians can be 
divided into two branches, according as the scientific or the 
artistic motive predominates. 

When people speak of history as a science, there are two 
very different things that may be meant. There is a compara- 
tively pedestrian sense in which science is involved in ascer- 
taining historical facts. This is especially important in early 
history, where evidence is both scarce and obscure, but it 


arises also in more recent times whenever, as is apt to be the 
case, there is a conflict of testimony. How much are we to 
believe of Procopius? Is there anything of historical value to 
be made out of Napoleon's lucubrations in St. Helena? Such 
questions are in a sense scientific, since they concern the 
weight to be attached to different sources of evidence. They 
are matters as to which the historian may justifiably address 
himself to other historians, since the considerations involved 
are likely to be obscure and specialized. Work of this sort is 
presupposed in any attempt to write large-scale history. His- 
tory, however much it may be pursued as an art, has to be 
controlled by the attempt to be true to fact. Truth to fact is 
a rule of the art, but does not in itself confer artistic excel- 
lence. It is like the rules of the sonnet, which can be scrupu- 
lously observed without conferring merit on the result. But 
history cannot be praiseworthy, even from the most purely 
artistic point of view, unless the historian does his utmost 
to preserve fidelity to the facts. Science in this sense is ab- 
solutely essential to the study of history. 

There is another sense in which history attempts to be scien- 
tific, and this sense raises more difficult questions. In this 
sense history seeks to discover causal laws connecting differ- 
ent facts, in the same sort of way in which physical sciences 
have succeeded in discovering interconnections among facts. 
The attempt to discover such causal laws in history is entirely 
praiseworthy, but I do not think that it is what gives the most 
value to historical studies. I found an admirable discussion of 
this matter in an essay which I had read forty years ago and 
largely forgotten: I mean George Trevelyan's Clio, a Muse. 
He points out that in history we are interested in the par- 
ticular facts and not only in their causal relations. It may be, 
as some have suggested, that Napoleon lost the Battle of Leip- 
zig because he ate a peach after the Battle of Dresden. If this 


is the case, it is no doubt not without interest. But the events 
which it connects are on their own account much more in- 
teresting. In physical science, exactly the opposite is true. 
Eclipses, for example, are not very interesting in themselves 
except when they give fixed points in very early history, as is 
the case with the eclipse in Asia Minor which helps to date 
Thales and the eclipse in China in 776 B.C. (Some authorities 
say that it was in 775 B.C. I leave this question to historians 
and astronomers.) But although most eclipses are not interest- 
ing in themselves, the laws which determine their recurrence 
are of the very highest interest, and the discovery of these 
laws was of immense importance in dispelling superstition. 
Similarly, the experimental facts upon which modern physics 
is based would be totally uninteresting if it were not for the 
causal laws that they help to establish. But history is not like 
this. Most of the value of history is lost if we are not in- 
terested in the things that happen for their own sakes. In this 
respect history is like poetry. There is a satisfaction to curi- 
osity in discovering why Coleridge wrote "Kubla Khan" as 
he did, but this satisfaction is a trivial affair compared to that 
which we derive from the poem itself. 

I do not mean to deny that it is a good thing to discover 
causal sequences in history when it is possible, but I think the 
possibility exists only in rather limited fields. Gresham's law 
that bad money drives out good is an example of one of the 
best established of such causal sequences. The whole science 
of economics, in so far as it is valid, consists of causal laws il- 
lustrated by historical facts. But as everybody now recog- 
nizes, supposed laws of economics have a much more tem- 
porary and local validity than was thought a hundred years 
ago. One of the difficulties in searching for such laws is that 
there is not so much recurrence in history as in astronomy. 
It may be true, as Meyers maintains in his little book on The 


Da e wn of History, that on four separate occasions drought in 
Arabia has caused a wave of Semitic conquest, but it is hardly 
to be supposed that the same cause would produce the same 
effect at the present day. Even when historical causal se- 
quences are established as regards the past, there is not much 
reason to expect that they will hold in the future, because the 
relevant facts are so complex that unforeseeable changes may 
falsify our predictions. No historian, however scientific, could 
have predicted in the fourteenth century the changes brought 
about by Columbus and Vasco da Gama. For these reasons I 
think that scientific laws in history are neither so important 
nor so discoverable as is sometimes maintained. 

This applies with especial force to those large schemes of 
historical development which have fascinated many eminent 
men from St. Augustine to Professor Toynbee. In modern 
times, the most important inventors of general theories as to 
human development, have been Hegel and his disciple Marx. 
Both believed that the history of the past obeyed a logical 
schema, and that this same schema gave a means of foretell- 
ing the future. Neither foresaw the hydrogen bomb, and no 
doctrine of human development hitherto concocted enables 
us to foresee the effects of this ingenious device. If this reflec- 
tion seems gloomy, I will add another of a more cheerful 
sort: I cannot accept the view of Spengler that every society 
must inevitably grow old and decay like an individual human 
body. I think this view results from unduly pressing the 
analogy between a social and an individual organism. Most 
societies have perished by assassination, and not by old age. 
Some might maintain that Chinese society has been decrepit 
ever since the fall of the Han dynasty; but it survived because 
the countries immediately to the west of China were sparsely 
inhabited. What has put an end to the traditional civilization 
of China is not any new inherent weakness, but the improve- 


ment In means of communication with the West. Some among 
the Stoics thought that the world would be periodically de- 
stroyed by fire and then recreated. There is evidently some- 
thing in this view which suits men's preconceptions, and in 
milder forms it underlies almost all general theories of human 
development that historians have invented. All alike, I should 
say, are no more than myths, agreeable or disagreeable ac- 
cording to the temperaments of their inventors. 

There is a department of history which has always inter- 
ested me, perhaps beyond its intrinsic importance. It is that 
of bypaths in history: communities which have become iso- 
lated from the main current of their parent countries, but 
have trickled by unforeseen courses into the main stream of 
quite other rivers. From this point of view I have long been 
fascinated by the Bactrian Greeks. I thought that they had 
been completely lost, like a river absorbed by the desert, and 
then I learned, to my no small delight, that they had become 
the source of Buddhist art and had inspired the statuary of 
the East through many ages and in many lands. Another ex- 
ample of the same kind of bypath is that of the Bogomils in 
Bulgaria, who were obscure disciples of Marcian and Mani, 
and whose doctrines, by means of certain misguided crusaders, 
were adopted by the Cathari in northern Italy and the Albi- 
genses in southern France. A still more remarkable example 
of the same kind of thing appears in the history of New Eng- 
land. From early boyhood I had known of Pride's Purge, 
when the haughty soldier caused the Long Parliament to 
tremble in the name of theological truth and the wages due 
to the army. But it had never occurred to me to wonder 
what became of Pride after 1660. In 1896 I was taken to a 
place in New England called Pride's Crossing, and was in- 
formed that it was called after the eponymous hero of the 
Purge. I learned that he had had to leave his native country 


and settle upon a wild and rocky shore where the winter was 
long, the soil infertile, and the Indians dangerous. It might 
have seemed to Charles II and his courtiers that Pride had met 
his deserts, but after two and a half centuries his descendants 
rule the world and the descendants of Charles II tremble at 
their frown. 

I come now to my main theme, which is what history can 
do and should do for the general reader. I am not thinking 
of what history does for historians; I am thinking of history 
as an essential part of the furniture of an educated mind. We 
do not think that poetry should be read only by poets, or that 
music should be heard only by composers. And, in like man- 
ner, history should not be known only to historians. But 
clearly the kind of history which is to contribute to the 
mental life of those who are not historians must have certain 
qualities that more professional work need not have, and, 
conversely, does not require certain things which one would 
look for in a learned monograph. I will try to write though 
I find it very difficult what I feel that I personally have de- 
rived from the reading of history. I should put first and 
foremost something like a new dimension in the individual life, 
a sense of being a drop in a great river rather than a tightly 
bounded separate entity. The man whose interests are 
bounded by the short span between his birth and death has a 
myopic vision and a limitation of outlook which can hardly 
fail to narrow the scope of his hopes and desires. And what 
applies to an individual man, applies also to a community. 
Those communities that have as yet little history make upon 
a European a curious impression of thinness and isolation. 
They do not feel themselves the inheritors of the ages, and 
for that reason what they aim at transmitting to their suc- 
cessors seems jejune and emotionally poor to one in whom 
the past is vivid and the future is illuminated by knowledge of 


the slow and painful achievements of former times. History 
makes one aware that there is no finality in human affairs; 
there is not a static perfection and an unimprovable wisdom 
to be achieved. Whatever wisdom we may have achieved is a 
small matter in comparison with what is possible. Whatever 
beliefs we may cherish, even those that we deem most impor- 
tant, are not likely to last forever; and, if we imagine that 
they embody eternal verities, the future is likely to make a 
mock of us. Cocksure certainty is the source of much that is 
worst in our present world, and it is something of which the 
contemplation of history ought to cure us, not only or chiefly 
because there were wise men in the past, but because so much 
that was thought wisdom turned out to be folly which sug- 
gests that much of our own supposed wisdom is no better. 

I do not mean to maintain that we should lapse into a lazy 
skepticism. We should hold our beliefs, and hold them 
strongly. Nothing great is achieved without passion, but 
underneath the passion there should always be that large im- 
personal survey which sets limits to actions that our passions 
inspire. If you think ill of Communism or Capitalism, should 
you exterminate the human race in order that there may be 
no more Communists or Capitalists as the case may be? Few 
people would deliberately assert that this would be wise, and 
yet it is a consummation toward which some politicians who 
are not historically minded seem to be leading mankind. This 
is an extreme example, but it is by no means difficult to think 
of innumerable others. 

Leaving these general and rather discursive considerations, 
let us come to the question how history should be written if 
it is to produce the best possible result in the nonhistorical 
reader. Here there is first of all an extremely simple require- 
ment: it must be interesting. I mean that it must be interesting 
not only to men who for some special reason wish to know 


some set of historical facts, but to those who are reading in 
the same spirit in which one reads poetry or a good novel 
This requires first and foremost that the historian should have 
feelings about the events that he is relating and the characters 
that he is portraying. It is of course imperative that the his- 
torian should not distort facts, but it is not imperative that he 
should not take sides in the clashes and conflicts that fill his 
pages. An historian who is impartial, in the sense of not liking 
one party better than another and not allowing himself to 
have heroes and villains among his characters, will be a dull 
writer. If the reader is to be interested, he must be allowed 
to take sides in the drama. If this causes an historian to be 
one-sided, the only remedy is to find another historian with 
an opposite bias. The history of the Reformation, for example, 
can be interesting when it is written by a Protestant historian, 
and can be equally interesting when it is written by a Catholic 
historian. If you wish to know what it felt like to live at the 
time of the Wars of Religion you will perhaps succeed if you 
read both Protestant and Catholic histories, but you will not 
succeed if you read only men who view the whole series of 
events with complete detachment. Carlyle said about his his- 
tory of the French Revolution that his book was itself a kind 
of French Revolution. This is true, and it gives the book a 
certain abiding merit in spite of its inadequacy as an historical 
record. As you read it you understand why people did what 
they did, and this is one of the most important things that a 
history ought to do for the reader. At one time I read what 
Diodorus Siculus has to say about Agathocles, who appeared 
as an unmitigated ruffian. I looked up Agathocles afterward 
in a modern reference book and found him represented as 
bland and statesmanlike and probably innocent of all the 
crimes imputed to him. I have no means of knowing which 


of these two accounts is the more true, but I know that the 
whitewashing account was completely uninteresting. I do not 
like a tendency, to which some modern historians are prone, 
to tone down everything dramatic and make out that heroes 
were not so very heroic and villains not so very villainous. 
No doubt a love of drama can lead an historian astray; but 
there is drama in plenty that requires no falsification, though 
only literary skill can convey it to the reader. 

"Literary skill" is a large and general phrase, and it may be 
worth while to give it a more specific meaning. There is, 
first of all, style in the narrow sense of the word, especially 
diction and rhythm. Some words, especially those invented 
for scientific purposes, have merely a dictionary meaning. If 
you found the word "tetrahedron" on a page, you would at 
once begin to feel bored. But the word "pyramid" is a fine, 
rich word, which brings Pharaohs and Aztecs floating into 
the mind. Rhythm is a matter dependent upon emotion: What 
is strongly felt will express itself naturally in a rhythmical 
and varied form. For this reason, among others, a writer needs 
a certain freshness of feeling which is apt to be destroyed 
by fatigue and by the necessity of consulting authorities. I 
think though this is perhaps counsel of perfection that be- 
fore an historian actually composes a chapter, he should have 
the material so familiarly in his mind that his pen never has to 
pause for verification of what he is saying. I do not mean 
that verification is unnecessary, because everybody's memory 
plays tricks, but that it should come after, and not during, 
composition. Style, when it is good, is a very personal expres- 
sion of the writer's way of feeling, and for that reason, among 
others, it is fatal to imitate even the most admirable style. 
Somewhere in Milman's History of Christianity (I write from 
memory), he says: "Rhetoric was still studied as a fine, 


though considered as a mere, art." The shade of Gibbon, if it 
was looking over Milman's shoulder, must have been pained 
by this sentence. 

If expository prose is to be interesting, there has to be a 
period of incubation, after the necessary knowledge has been 
acquired, when the bare facts will become clothed with such 
associations as are appropriate, of analogy or pathos or irony 
or what not, and when they will compose themselves into 
the unity of a pattern as in a play. This sort of thing is hardly 
likely to happen adequately unless the author has a fair amount 
of leisure and not an unfair amount of fatigue. Conscientious 
people are apt to work too hard and to spoil their work by 
doing so. Bagehot speaks somewhere of men he knew in the 
City who went bankrupt because they worked eight hours a 
day, but would have been rich if they had confined themselves 
to four hours. I think many learned men could profit by this 

Within the compass of history as an art there are various 
kinds of history, each of which has its own peculiar kind of 
merit. One of these kinds of merit is especially exemplified by 
Gibbon, who oifers us a stately procession of characters 
marching through the ages, all in court dress and yet all indi- 
vidual. Not long ago I was reading about Zenobia in the 
Cambridge Ancient History, but I regret to say that she ap- 
peared completely uninteresting. I remembered somewhat 
dimly a much more lively account in Gibbon. I looked it 
up, and at once the masterful lady came alive. Gibbon had had 
his feelings about her, and had imagined what it would be like 
to be at her court. He had written with lively fancy, and not 
merely with cold desire to chronicle known facts. It is odd 
that one does not more resent the fact that his characters all 
have to be fitted into an eighteenth-century mold. I remem- 
ber that somewhere in dealing with the Vandals after the 


time of Genseric he speaks of "the polished tyrants of Africa." 
I am quite unable to believe that these men were polished, 
though I have no difficulty in believing that they were tyrants. 
But somehow, in spite of such limitations, Gibbon conveys an 
extraordinarily vivid sense of the march of events throughout 
the centuries with which he deals. His book illustrates what 
I am firmly persuaded is true, that great history must be the 
work of a single man and cannot possibly be achieved by a 
compendium in which each contributor deals with his own 
specialty. Learning has grown so multifarious and complex 
that it has been thought impossible for any one mind to em- 
brace a large field. I am sure that this is a most unfortunate 
mistake. If a book is to have value except as a work of refer- 
ence it must be the work of one mind. It must be the result of 
holding together a great multiplicity within the unity of a 
single temperament. I will admit at once that this is growing 
more and more difficult, but I think means can be devised 
by which it will still be possible, and I think they must be 
devised if great histories are not to be a thing of the past. 

What is needed is division of labor. Gibbon profited by 
Tillemont, and probably could not otherwise have achieved 
his work in a lifetime. The archaeologist or the man who 
delves in unpublished manuscript material is likely to have 
neither the time nor the energy for large-scale history. The 
man who proposes to write large-scale history should not be 
expected himself to do the spade work. In the sciences, this 
sort of thing is recognized. Kepler's laws were based upon 
the observations of Tycho Brahe. Clerk Maxwell's theories 
rested upon the experiments of Faraday. Einstein did not him- 
self make the observations upon which his doctrines are based. 
Broadly speaking the amassing of facts is one thing, and the 
digesting of them is another. Where the facts are numerous 
and complex, it is scarcely possible for one man to do both. 


Suppose, for example, you wish to know the effect of the 
Minoan civilization on the classical civilization of Greece. You 
will hardly expect the most balanced or the best informed 
opinion from a man who has been engaged in the very difficult 
work of ascertaining Minoan facts. The same sort of thing 
applies to less recondite problems, say, for example, the influ- 
ence of Plutarch on the French Revolution. 

The name of Plutarch brings to mind another department 
of history. History is not concerned only with large-scale 
pageants, nor with the delineation of different kinds of socie- 
ties. It is concerned also, and equally, with individuals who 
are noteworthy on their own account. Plutarch's Lives of the 
Noble Grecians and Romans have inspired in many ambitious 
young men valiant careers upon which they might not other- 
wise have ventured. I think there is a tendency in our time 
to pay too little attention to the individual and too much to 
the mass. We are so persuaded that we live in the Age of the 
Common Man that men become common even when they 
might be otherwise. There has been a movement, especially 
in teaching history to the young, toward emphasis on types 
of culture as opposed to the doings of individual heroes. Up 
to a point, this is entirely praiseworthy. We get a better 
sense of the march of events if we are told something about 
the manner of life of Cromagnon man or Neanderthal man, 
and it is wholesome to know about the tenement houses in 
Rome where the Romans lived whom Plutarch does not men- 
tion. A book like the Hammonds 7 Village Labourer presents 
a whole period from a point of view of which there is nothing 
in the older conventional histories. All this is true and im- 
portant. But what, though important, is not true, but most 
perniciously false, is the suggestion, which easily grows up 
when history is studied only in this way, that individuals do 
not count and that those who have been regarded as heroes 


are only embodiments of social forces, whose work would 
have been done by someone else if it had not been done by 
them, and that, broadly speaking, no individual can do better 
than let himself be borne along by the current of his time. 
What is worst about this view is that, if it is held, it tends to 
become true. Heroic lives are inspired by heroic ambitions, 
and the young man who thinks that there is nothing impor- 
tant to be done is pretty sure to do nothing important. For 
such reasons I think the kind of history that is exemplified by 
Plutarch's Lives is quite as necessary as the more generalized 
kind. Very few people can make a community: Lenin and 
Stalin are the only ones who have achieved it in modern 
times. But a very much larger number of men can achieve 
an individual life which is significant. This applies not only to 
men whom we may regard as models to be imitated, but to all 
those who afford new material for imagination. The Emperor 
Frederick II, for example, most certainly does not deserve to 
be imitated, but he makes a splendid piece in one's mental 
furniture. The Wonder of the World, tramping hither and 
thither with his menagerie, completed at last by his Prime 
Minister in a cage, debating with Moslem sages, winning cru- 
sades in spite of being excommunicate, is a figure that I 
should be sorry not to know about. We all think it worth 
while to know about the great heroes of tragedy Agamem- 
non, Oedipus, Hamlet and the rest but there have been real 
men whose lives had the same quality as that of the great 
tragic heroes, and had the additional merit of having actually 
existed. All forms of greatness, whether divine or diabolic, 
share a certain quality, and I do not wish to see this quality 
ironed out by the worship of mediocrity. When I first visited 
America nearly sixty years ago, I made the acquaintance of 
a lady who had lately had a son. Somebody remarked lightly, 
"perhaps he will be a genius." The lady, in tones of heartfelt 


horror, replied, "Oh, I hope not!" Her wish, alas, was 

I do not mean to subscribe to Carlyle's cult of heroes, still 
less to Nietzsche's exaggeration of it. I do not wish for one 
moment to suggest that the common man is unimportant, or 
that the study of masses of men is less worth pursuing than 
the study of notable individuals. I wish only to preserve a 
balance between the two. I believe that remarkable individ- 
uals have done a great deal to mold history. I think that, if 
the hundred ablest men of science of the seventeenth century 
had all died in infancy, the life of the common man in every 
industrial community would now be quite different from 
what it is. I do not think that if Shakespeare and Milton had 
not existed someone else would have composed their works. 
And yet this is the sort of thing that some ' 'scientific" histori- 
ans seem to wish one to believe. 

I will go a step farther in agreement with those who em- 
phasize the individual. I think that what is most worthy to be 
known and admired in human affairs has to do with individ- 
uals rather than with communities. I do not believe in the 
independent value of a collection of human beings over and 
above the value contained in their several lives, and I think it 
is dangerous if history neglects individual value in order to 
glorify a state, a nation, a church, or any other such collec- 
tive entity. But I will not pursue this theme farther for fear 
of being led into politics. 

The interest of the general reader in history has, I think, 
declined during the present century, and for my part I greatly 
regret this decline. There are a number of reasons for it. 
In the first place, reading altogether has declined. People go 
to the movies, or listen to the radio, or watch television. They 
indulge a curious passion for changing their position on the 
earth's surface as quickly as possible, which they combine 


with an attempt to make all parts of the earth's surface look 
alike. But even those who persist in the habit of serious reading 
spend less of their time on history than serious readers for- 
merly did. My friend Whitehead at one time employed Paolo 
Sarpi's History of the Council of Trent as a bed book. I 
doubt whether there is now any person living who does like- 
wise. History has ceased to be as interesting as it used to be, 
partly because the present is so full of important events, and 
so packed with quick-moving changes, that many people find 
neither time nor inclination to turn their attention to former 
centuries. A life of Hitler or Lenin or Stalin or Trotsky can 
be quite as interesting in itself as a life of Napoleon, and has, 
in addition, more relevance to present problems. But I am 
afraid we must admit that there is another cause for the de- 
cline of historical reading, and that is the decline of historical 
writing in the grand manner. I do not know how eagerly 
their contemporaries lapped up Herodotus or Thucydides or 
Polybius or Plutarch or Tacitus, but we all know the eager- 
ness with which historians were welcomed in the eighteenth 
and nineteenth centuries. In Britain there was a long proces- 
sion from Clarendon's History of the Rebellion to Macaulay. 
In France, from the time of Voltaire onward, history was a 
battleground of rival philosophies. In Germany, under the 
inspiration of Hegel, historians combined brilliance and wick- 
edness in equal proportions. I do not think it would be unfair 
to Mommsen to say that his history had two themes: one, 
the greatness of Caesar because he destroyed liberty; the 
other, that Carthage was like England and Rome was like 
Germany and that the future Punic Wars to which he looked 
forward would have an outcome analogous to that of their 
predecessors. The influence of Treitschke in spreading a per- 
nicious myth is generally recognized. When we speak of the 
importance of history, we must admit its importance for evil 


as well as for good. This applies especially to the popular 
myths which have gradually become a part of folklore. I 
went once to Ireland with my two young children. My 
daughter, aged five, made friends with a peasant woman who 
treated her with great kindness. But, as we went away, the 
woman said: "She's a bonny girl, in spite of Cromwell." It 
seemed a pity that the woman did not know either more 
history or less. 

The decay in the writing of great histories is only part of 
the decay in the writing of great books. Men of science now- 
adays do not write books comparable to Newton's Principia 
or Darwin's Origin of Species. Poets no longer write epics. 
In the learned world, everything moves so fast that a massive 
book would be out of date before it could be published. Con- 
tributions to learning appear in periodicals, not in separate 
books, and few men in any branch of learning feel that there 
is time for that leisurely survey from which great books for- 
merly sprang. There are of course exceptions. One of the 
most noteworthy is Professor Toynbee, whose work is as 
massive as any of those of former times. But the exceptions 
are not sufficiently numerous to disprove the general trend. 
I suppose the trend will remain until the world settles down 
to some form of progress less helter-skelter than the present 
race toward the abyss. 

I think that in bringing sanity to our intoxicated age, his- 
tory has an important part to play. I do not mean that this is 
to be brought about by any supposed "lessons of history," 
or indeed by anything easily put into a verbal formula. What 
history can and should do, not only for historians but for all 
whose education has given them any breadth of outlook, is to 
produce a certain temper of mind, a certain way of thinking 
and feeling about contemporary events and their relation to the 
past and the future. I do not know whether one should accept 


Cornford's thesis that Thucydides modeled his history on 
Attic tragedy; but, if he did, the events that he recorded fully 
justified his doing so, and the Athenians, if they had seen 
themselves in the light of actors in a possible tragedy, might 
have had the wisdom to avert the tragic outcome. It is an 
ancient doctrine that tragedy comes of hubris, but it is none 
the less true for being ancient, and hubris recurs in every age 
among those who have forgotten the disasters to which it has 
always led. In our age, mankind collectively has given itself 
over to a degree of hubris surpassing everything known in 
former ages. In the past, Prometheus was regarded as a 
would-be liberator, restrained in his beneficent work by the 
tyranny of Zeus, but now we begin to wish that there were 
some Zeus to restrain the modern followers of Prometheus. 
Prometheus aimed to serve mankind: his modern followers 
serve the passions of mankind, but only in so far as they are 
mad and destructive. In the modern world there are clever 
men in laboratories and fools in power. The clever men are 
slaves, like Djinns in the Arabian Nights. Mankind collec- 
tively, under the guidance of the fools and by the ingenuity of 
the clever slaves, is engaged in the great task of preparing its 
own extermination. I wish there were a Thucydides to treat 
this theme as it deserves. I cannot but think that if the men 
in power were impregnated with a sense of history they would 
find a way of avoiding the catastrophe which all see approach- 
ing and which none desire, for history is not only an account 
of this nation or that, nor even of this continent or that; its 
theme is Man, that strange product of evolution which has 
risen by means of skill to a mastery over all other forms of 
life, and even, at great peril to himself, to mastery over the 
forces of inanimate nature. But Man, in spite of his cleverness, 
has not learned to think of the human family as one. Al- 
though he has abolished the jungle, he still allows himself to 


be governed by the law of the jungle. He has little sense of 
the common tasks of humanity, of its achievements in the 
past and its possible greater achievements in the future. He 
sees his fellow man not as a collaborator in a common pur- 
pose, but as an enemy who will kill if he is not killed. What- 
ever his sect or party may be, he believes that it embodies 
ultimate and eternal wisdom, and that the opposite party 
embodies ultimate and absolute folly. To any person with 
any historical culture such a view is absurd. No portion of 
mankind in the past was as good as it thought itself, or as bad 
as it was thought by its enemies; but, in the past, humanity 
could achieve its common purposes in spite of strife, though 
haltingly and with temporarily disastrous setbacks. But in our 
age the new cleverness is only compatible with survival if 
accompanied by a new wisdom. The wisdom that is needed 
is new only in one sense: that it must appeal to masses of 
men, and above all, to those who control great power. It is 
not new in the sense that it has never been proclaimed before. 
It has been proclaimed by wise men for many ages, but their 
wisdom has not been heeded. Now, the time is past when 
wisdom could be treated as nothing but the idle dream of 
visionaries. Sometimes in the moments when I am most op- 
pressed by the fear of coming disaster, I am tempted to think 
that what the world needs is a Prophet who will proclaim, 
with a voice combining thunder with the deepest compas- 
sion, that the road upon which mankind is going is the wrong 
r0 ad a road leading to the death of our children and to the 
extinction of all hope but that there is another road which 
men can pursue if they will, and that this other road leads to 
a better world than any that has existed in the past. But, al- 
though this vision of a prophet can afford a momentary 
consolation, what the world needs is something more difficult, 
more rare. If a prophet were to arise in the East, he would be 


liquidated; if a prophet were to arise in the West, he would 
not be heard in the East and in the West would be con- 
demned to obloquy. It is not by the action of any one in- 
dividual, however great and however eloquent, that the world 
can be saved. It can be saved only when rulers and their 
followers in the most powerful countries of the world be- 
come aware that they have been pursuing a will-o'-the-wisp 
which is tempting them only toward ignominious death in a 
mire of futile hatred. The collective folly is not yet universal. 
Some nations stand wholly outside it, some are only partially 
victims to it. It is not too late to hope that mankind may have 
a future as well as a past. I believe that if men are to feel 
this hope with sufficient vividness to give it dynamic power, 
the awareness of history is one of the greatest forces of which 
the beneficent appeal must be felt. 

How I Write 

1 CANNOT pretend to know how writing ought to be done, 
or what a wise critic would advise me to do with a view 
to improving my own writing. The most that I can do 
is to relate some things about my own attempts. 

Until I was twenty-one, I wished to write more or less in 
the style of John Stuart Mill. I liked the structure of his 
sentences and his manner of developing a subject. I had, how- 
ever, already a different ideal, derived, I suppose, from mathe- 
matics. I wished to say everything in the smallest number of 
words in which it could be said clearly. Perhaps, I thought, 
one should imitate Baedeker rather than any more literary 
model. I would spend hours trying to find the shortest way of 
saying something without ambiguity, and to this aim I was 
willing to sacrifice all attempts at aesthetic excellence. 

At the age of twenty-one, however, I came under a new 
influence, that of my future brother-in-law, Logan Pearsall 
Smith. He was at that time exclusively interested in style 
as opposed to matter. His gods were Flaubert and Walter 
Pater, and I was quite ready to believe that the way to learn 
how to write was to copy their technique. He gave me vari- 
ous simple rules, of which I remember only two: "Put a 
comma every four words," and "never use 'and' except at 
the beginning of a sentence." His most emphatic advice was 
that one must always rewrite. I conscientiously tried this, but 
found that my first draft was almost always better than my 
second. This discovery has saved me an immense amount of 
time. I do not, of course, apply it to the substance, but only to 



the form. When I discover an error of an important kind, I 
rewrite the whole. What I do not find is that I can improve 
a sentence when I am satisfied with what it means. 

Very gradually I have discovered ways of writing with a 
minimum of worry and anxiety. When I was young each fresh 
piece of serious work used to seem to me for a time perhaps 
a long time to be beyond my powers. I would fret myself 
into a nervous state from fear that it was never going to come 
right. I would make one unsatisfying attempt after another, 
and in the end have to discard them all. At last I found that 
such fumbling attempts were a waste of time. It appeared that 
after first contemplating a book on some subject, and after 
giving serious preliminary attention to it, I needed a period 
of subconscious incubation which could not be hurried and 
was if anything impeded by deliberate thinking. Sometimes 
I would find, after a time, that I had made a mistake, and that 
I could not write the book I had had in mind. But often I 
was more fortunate. Having, by a time of very intense con- 
centration, planted the problem in my subconsciousness, it 
would germinate underground until, suddenly, the solution 
emerged with blinding clarity, so that it only remained to 
write down what had appeared as if in a revelation. 

The most curious example of this process, and the one which 
led me subsequently to rely upon it, occurred at the beginning 
of 1914. 1 had undertaken to give the Lowell Lectures at Bos- 
ton, and had chosen as my subject "Our Knowledge of the 
External World." Throughout 1913 I thought about this 
topic. In term time in my rooms at Cambridge, in vacations 
in a quiet inn on the upper reaches of the Thames, I concen- 
trated with such intensity that I sometimes forgot to breathe 
and emerged panting as from a trance. But all to no avail. 
To every theory that I could think of I could perceive fatal 
objections. At last, in despair, I went off to Rome for Christ- 


mas, hoping that a holiday would revive my flagging energy. 
I got back to Cambridge on the last day of 1913, and although 
my difficulties were still completely unresolved I arranged, 
because the remaining time was short, to dictate as best as I 
could to a stenographer. Next morning, as she came in at the 
door, I suddenly saw exactly what I had to say, and pro- 
ceeded to dictate the whole book without a moment's hesita- 

I do not want to convey an exaggerated impression. The 
book was very imperfect, and I now think that it contains 
serious errors. But it was the best that I could have done at 
that time, and a more leisurely method (within the time at my 
disposal) would almost certainly have produced something 
worse. Whatever may be true of other people, this is the 
right method for me. Flaubert and Pater, I have found, are best 
forgotten so far as I am concerned. 

Although what I now think about how to write is not so 
very different from what I thought at the age of eighteen, 
my development has not been by any means rectilinear. There 
was a time, in the first years of this century, when I had more 
florid and rhetorical ambitions. This was the time when I 
wrote A Free Man's Worship, a work of which I do not now 
think well. At that time I was steeped in Milton's prose, and 
his rolling periods reverberated through the caverns of my 
mind. I cannot say that I no longer admire them, but for me 
to imitate them involves a certain insincerity. In fact, all imi- 
tation is dangerous. Nothing could be better in style than 
the Prayer Book and the Authorized Version of the Bible, 
but they express a way of thinking and feeling which is dif- 
ferent from that of our time. A style is not good unless it is 
an intimate and almost involuntary expression of the person- 
ality of the writer, and then only if the writer's personality is 
worth expressing. But although direct imitation is always to 


be deprecated, there is much to be gained by familiarity with 
good prose, especially in cultivating a sense for prose rhythm. 

There are some simple maxims not perhaps quite so simple 
as those which my brother-in-law Logan Pearsall Smith of- 
fered me which I think might be commended to writers of 
expository prose. First: never use a long word if a short word 
will do. Second: if you want to make a statement with a 
great many qualifications, put some of the qualifications in 
separate sentences. Third: do not let the beginning of your 
sentence lead the reader to an expectation which is contra- 
dicted by the end. Take, say, such a sentence as the following, 
which might occur in a work on sociology: "Human beings 
are completely exempt from undesirable behavior patterns 
only when certain prerequisites, not satisfied except in a small 
percentage of actual cases, have, through some fortuitous con- 
course of favorable circumstances, whether congenital or en- 
vironmental, chanced to combine in producing an individual 
in whom many factors deviate from the norm in a socially 
advantageous manner." Let us see if we can translate this 
sentence into English. I suggest the following: "All men are 
scoundrels, or at any rate almost all. The men who are not 
must have had unusual luck, both in their birth and in their 
upbringing." This is shorter and more intelligible, and says 
just the same thing. But I am afraid any professor who used 
the second sentence instead of the first would get the sack. 

This suggests a word of advice to such of my readers as 
may happen to be professors. I am allowed to use plain Eng- 
lish because everybody knows that I could use mathematical 
logic if I chose. Take the statement: "Some people marry 
their deceased wives' sisters." I can express this in language 
which only becomes intelligible after years of study, and this 
gives me freedom. I suggest to young professors that their first 
work should be written in a jargon only to be understood 


by the erudite few. With that behind them, they can ever 
after say what they have to say in a language a understanded 
of the people." In these days, when our very lives are at the 
mercy of the professors, I cannot but think that they would 
deserve our gratitude if they adopted my advice. 

The Road to Happiness 

FOR over two thousand years it has been the custom 
among earnest moralists to decry happiness as some- 
thing degraded and unworthy. The Stoics, for centu- 
ries, attacked Epicurus, who preached happiness; they said that 
his was a pig's philosophy, and showed their superior virtue 
by inventing scandalous lies about him. One of them, Clean- 
thes, wanted Aristarchus persecuted for advocating the Co- 
pernican system of astronomy; another, Marcus Aurelius, 
persecuted the Christians; one of the most famous of them, 
Seneca, abetted Nero's abominations, amassed a vast fortune, 
and lent money to Boadicea at such an exorbitant rate of in- 
terest that she was driven into rebellion. So much for antiq- 
uity. Skipping the next 2,000 years, we come to the German 
professors who invented the disastrous theories that led Ger- 
many to its downfall and the rest of the world to its present 
perilous state; all these learned men despised happiness, as did 
their British imitator, Carlyle, who is never weary of telling 
us that we ought to eschew happiness in favor of blessedness. 
He found blessedness in rather odd places: Cromwell's Irish 
massacres, Frederick the Great's bloodthirsty perfidy, and 
Governor Eyre's Jamaican brutality. In fact, contempt for 
happiness is usually contempt for other people's happiness, 
and is an elegant disguise for hatred of the human race. Even 
when a man genuinely sacrifices his own happiness in favor of 
something that he thinks nobler, he is apt to remain envious of 
those who enjoy a lesser degree of nobility, and this envy 
will, all too often, make those who think themselves saints 


cruel and destructive. In our day the most important exam- 
ples of this mentality are the Communists. 

People who have theories as to how one should live tend to 
forget the limitations of nature. If your way of life involves 
constant restraint of impulse for the sake of some one supreme 
aim that you have set yourself, it is likely that the aim will 
become increasingly distasteful because of the efforts that it 
demands; impulse, denied its normal outlets, will find others, 
probably in spite; pleasure, if you allow yourself any at all, 
will be dissociated from the main current of your life, and 
will become Bacchic and frivolous. Such pleasure brings 
no happiness, but only a deeper despair. 

It is a commonplace among moralists that you cannot get 
happiness by pursuing it. This is only true if you pursue it 
unwisely. Gamblers at Monte Carlo are pursuing money, 
and most of them lose it instead, but there are other ways of 
pursuing money which often succeed. So it is with happiness. 
If you pursue it by means of drink, you are forgetting the 
hangover. Epicurus pursued it by living in congenial society 
and eating only dry bread, supplemented by a little cheese on 
feast days. His method proved successful, in his case, but he 
was a valetudinarian, and most people would need something 
more vigorous. For most people, the pursuit of happiness, un- 
less supplemented in various ways, is too abstract and theoret- 
ical to be adequate as a personal rule of life. But I think that 
whatever personal rule of life you may choose, it should not, 
except in rare heroic cases, be incompatible with happiness. 

There are a great many people who have the mate- 
rial conditions of happiness, i.e. health and a sufficient income, . 
and who, nevertheless, are profoundly unhappy. This is espe- 
cially true in America. In such cases it would seem as if the 
fault must lie with a wrong theory as to how to live. In one 
sense we may say that any theory as to how to live is wrong. 


We imagine ourselves more different from the animals than 
we are. Animals live on impulse, and are happy as long as ex- 
ternal conditions are favorable. If you have a cat, it will en- 
joy life if it has food and warmth and opportunities for an 
occasional night on the tiles. Your needs are more complex 
than those of your cat, but they still have their basis in in- 
stinct. In civilized societies, especially in English-speaking so- 
cieties, this is too apt to be forgotten. People propose to them- 
selves some one paramount objective, and restrain all impulses 
that do not minister to it. A businessman may be so anxious 
to grow rich that to this end he sacrifices health and the pri- 
vate affections. When at last he has become rich, no pleasure 
remains to him except harrying other people by exhortations 
to imitate his noble example. Many rich ladies, although na- 
ture has not endowed them with any spontaneous pleasure in 
literature or art, decide to be thought cultured, and spend 
boring hours learning the right thing to say about fashionable 
new books. It does not occur to them that books are written 
to give delight, not to afford opportunities for a dusty snob- 

If you look about you at the men and women whom you 
can call happy, you will see that they all have certain things in 
common. The most important of these things is an activity 
which at most times is enjoyable on its own account, and 
which, in addition, gradually builds up something that you 
are glad to see coming into existence. Women who take an 
instinctive pleasure in their children (which many women, 
especially educated women, do not) can get this kind of sat- 
isfaction out of bringing up a family. Artists and authors and 
men of science get happiness in this way if their own work 
seems good to them. But there are many humbler forms of 
the same kind of pleasure. Many men who spend their work- 
ing life in the City devote their weekends to voluntary and 


unremunerated toil in their gardens, and when the spring 
comes they experience all the joys of having created beauty. 
It is impossible to be happy without activity, but it is also 
impossible to be happy if the activity is excessive or of a re- 
pulsive kind. Activity is agreeable when it is directed very 
obviously to a desired end and is not in itself contrary to im- 
pulse. A dog will pursue rabbits to the point of complete ex- 
haustion and be happy all the time, but if you put the dog on 
a treadmill and gave him a good dinner after half an hour, he 
would not be happy till he got the dinner, because he would 
not have been engaged in a natural activity meanwhile. One 
of the difficulties of our time is that, in a complex modern so- 
ciety, few of the things that have to be done have the natural- 
ness of hunting. The consequence is that most people, in a 
technically advanced community, have to find their happiness 
outside the work by which they make their living. And if 
their work is exhausting their pleasures will tend to be passive. 
Watching a football match or going to the cinema leaves little 
satisfaction afterward, and does not in any degree gratify cre- 
ative impulses. The satisfaction of the players, who are active, 
is of quite a different order. 

The wish to be respected by neighbors and the fear of being 
despised by them drive men and women (especially women) 
into ways of behavior which are not prompted by any spon- 
taneous impulse. The person who is always "correct" is al- 
ways bored, or almost always. It is heartrending to watch 
mothers teaching their children to curb their joy of life and 
become sedate puppets, lest they should be thought to belong 
to a lower social class than that to which their parents aspire. 

The pursuit of social success, in the form of prestige or 
power or both, is the most important obstacle to happiness in 
a competitive society. I am not denying that success is an 
ingredient in happiness to some, a very important ingredient. 


But it does not, by itself, suffice to satisfy most people. You 
may be rich and admired, but if you have no friends, no in- 
terests, no spontaneous useless pleasures, you will be miser- 
able. Living for social success is one form of living by a the- 
ory, and all living by theory is dusty and desiccating. 

If a man or woman who is healthy and has enough to eat is 
to be happy, there is need of two things that, at first sight, 
might seem antagonistic. There is need, first, of a stable 
framework built round a central purpose, and second, of 
what may be called "play," that is to say, of things that are 
done merely because they are fun, and not because they serve 
some serious end. The settled framework must be an embodi- 
ment of fairly constant impulses, e.g. those connected with 
family or work. If the family has become steadily hateful, or 
the work uniformly irksome, they can no longer bring hap- 
piness; but it is worth while to endure occasional hatefulness 
or irksomeness if they are not felt continually. And they are 
much less likely to be felt continually if advantage is taken of 
opportunities for "play." 

The whole subject of happiness has, in my opinion, been 
treated too solemnly. It has been thought that men cannot be 
happy without a theory of life or a religion. Perhaps those 
who have been rendered unhappy by a bad theory may need 
a better theory to help them to recovery, just as you may need 
a tonic when you have been ill. But when things are normal a 
man should be healthy without a tonic and happy without a 
theory. It is the simple things that really matter. If a man de- 
lights in his wife and children, has success in work, and finds 
pleasure in the alternation of day and night, spring and au- 
tumn, he will be happy whatever his philosophy may be. If, 
on the other hand, he finds his wife hateful, his children's 
noise unendurable, and the office a nightmare; if in the day- 
time he longs for night, and at night he sighs for the light of 


day then what he needs is not a new philosophy but a new 
regimen a different diet, or more exercise, or what not. Man 
is an animal, and his happiness depends upon his physiology 
more than he likes to think. This is a humble conclusion, but 
I cannot make myself disbelieve it. Unhappy businessmen, I 
am convinced, would increase their happiness more by walk- 
ing six miles every day than by any conceivable change of 
philosophy. This, incidentally, was the opinion of Jefferson, 
who on this ground deplored the horse. Language would have 
failed him if he could have foreseen the motor car. 

Symptoms of OrwelPs 1984 

GEORGE ORWELL'S 1984 is a gruesome book which 
duly made its readers shudder. It did not, however, 
have the effect which no doubt its author intended. 
People remarked that Orwell was very ill when he wrote it, 
and in fact died soon afterward. They rather enjoyed the fris- 
son that its horrors gave them and thought: "Oh well, of 
course it will never be as bad as that except in Russia! Obvi- 
ously the author enjoys gloom; and so do we, as long as we 
don't take it seriously." Having soothed themselves with these 
comfortable falsehoods, people proceeded on their way to 
make Orwell's prognostications come true. Bit by bit, and 
step by step, the world has been marching toward the real- 
ization of Orwell's nightmares; but because the march has 
been gradual, people have not realized how far it has taken 
them on this fatal road. 

Only those who remember the world before 1914 can ade- 
quately realize how much has already been lost. In that 
happy age, one could travel without a passport, everywhere 
except in Russia. One could freely express any political opin- 
ion, except in Russia. Press censorship was unknown, except 
in Russia. Any white man could emigrate freely to any part 
of the world. The limitations of freedom in Czarist Russia 
were regarded with horror throughout the rest of the civi- 
lized world, and the power of the Russian Secret Police was 
regarded as an abomination. Russia is still worse than the West- 
ern World, not because the Western World has preserved its 
liberties, but because, while it has been losing them, Russia 


has marched farther in the direction of tyranny than any Czar 
lever thought of going. 

^"For a long time after the Russian Revolution, it was cus- 
tomary to say, "No doubt the new regime has its faults, but 
at any rate it is better than that which it has superseded." 
This was a complete delusion. When one rereads accounts of 
exile in Siberia under the Czar, it is impossible to recapture 
the revulsion with which one read them long ago. The exiles 
had a very considerable degree of liberty, both mental and 
physical, and their lot was in no way comparable to that of 
people subjected to forced labor under the Soviet Govern- 
ment. Educated Russians could travel freely and enjoy con- 
tacts with Western Europeans which are now impossible. 
Opposition to the Government, although it was apt to be pun- 
ished, was possible, and the punishment as a rule was nothing 
like as severe as it has become. Nor did tyranny extend nearly 
as widely as it does now. I read recently the early life of 
Trotsky as related by Deutscher, and it reveals a degree of 
political and intellectual freedom to which there is nothing 
comparable in present-day Russia. There is still as great a 
gulf between Russia and the West as there was in Czarist 
days, but I do not think the gulf is greater than it was then, 
for, while Russia has grown worse, the West also has lost 
much of the freedom which it formerly enjoyed. 

The problem is not new except quantitatively. Ever since 
civilization began, the authorities of most States have perse- 
cuted the best men among their subjects. We are all shocked 
by the treatment of Socrates and Christ, but most people do 
not realize that such has been the fate of a large proportion of 
the men subsequently regarded as unusually admirable. Most 
of the early Greek philosophers were refugees. Aristotle was 
protected from the hostility of Athens only by Alexander's 


armies, and, when Alexander died, Aristotle had to fly. In the 
seventeenth century scientific innovators were persecuted al- 
most everywhere except in Holland. Spinoza would have had 
no chance to do his work if he had not been Dutch. Descartes 
and Locke found it prudent to flee to Holland. When England, 
in 1688, acquired a Dutch king, it took over Dutch tolerance 
and has been, ever since, more liberal than most states, except 
during the period of the wars against revolutionary France and 
Napoleon. In most countries at most times, whatever subse- 
quently came to be thought best was viewed with horror at 
the time by those who wielded authority. 

What is new in our time is the increased power of the 
authorities to enforce their prejudices. The police every- 
where are very much more powerful than at any earlier 
time; and the police, while they serve a purpose in suppressing 
ordinary crime, are apt to be just as active in suppressing ex- 
traordinary merit. 

The problem is not confined to this country or that, al- 
though the intensity of the evil is not evenly distributed. In 
my own country things are done more quietly and with less 
fuss than in the United States, and the public knows very 
much less about them. There have been purges of the Civil 
Service carried out without any of the business of Congres- 
sional Committees. The Home Office, which controls immi- 
gration, is profoundly illiberal except when public opinion 
can be mobilized against it. A Polish friend of mine, a very 
brilliant writer who had never been a Communist, applied for 
naturalization in England after living in that country for a 
long time, but his request was at first refused on the ground 
that he was a friend of the Polish Ambassador. His request 
was only granted in the end as a result of protests by various 
people of irreproachable reputation. The right of asylum for 


political refugees that used to be England's boast has now 
been abandoned by the Home Office, though perhaps it may 
be restored as the result of agitation. 

' There is a reason for the general deterioration as regards 
liberty. This reason is the increased power of organizations 
and the increasing degree to which men's actions are con- 
trolled by this or that large body. In every organization there 
are two purposes: one, the ostensible purpose for which the 
organization exists; the other, the increase in the power of 
its officials. This second purpose is very likely to make a 
stronger appeal to the officials concerned than the general 
public purpose that they are expected to serve. If you fall foul 
of the police by attempting to expose some iniquity of 
which they have been guilty, you may expect to incur their 
hostility; and, if so, you are very likely to suffer severely. 

I have found among many liberal-minded people a belief 
that all is well so long as the law courts decide rightly when a 
case comes before them. This is entirely unrealistic. Suppose, 
for example, to take a by no means hypothetical case, that a 
professor is dismissed on a false charge of disloyalty. He may, 
if he happens to have rich friends, be able to establish in court 
that the charge was false, but this will probably take years 
during which he will starve or depend on charity. At the end 
he is a marked man. The university authorities, having learned 
wisdom, will say that he is a bad lecturer and does insufficient 
research. He will find himself again dismissed, this time with- 
out redress and with little hope of employment elsewhere. 

There are, it is true, some educational institutions in Amer- 
ica which, so far, have been strong enough to hold out. This, 
however, is only possible for an institution which has great 
prestige and has brave men in charge of its policy. Consider, 
for example, what Senator McCarthy has said about Harvard. 
He said he "couldn't conceive of anyone sending children to 


Harvard University where they would be open to indoctrina- 
tion by Communist professors." At Harvard, he said, there is 
a "smelly mess which people sending sons and daughters there 
should know about." Institutions less eminent than Harvard 
could hardly face such a blast. 

The power of the police, however, is a more serious and a 
more universal phenomenon than Senator McCarthy. It is, 
of course, greatly increased by the atmosphere of fear which 
exists on both sides of the Iron Curtain. If you live in Russia 
and cease to be sympathetic with Communism, you will suffer 
unless you keep silence even in the bosom of your family. In 
America, if you have been a Communist and you cease to be, 
you are also liable to penalties, not legal unless you have 
been trapped into perjury but economic and social. There 
is only one thing that you can do to escape such penalties, 
and that is to sell yourself to the Department of Justice as an 
informer, when your success will depend upon what tall 
stories you can get the FBI to believe. 

The increase of organization in the modern world demands 
new institutions if anything in the way of liberty is to be 
preserved. The situation is analogous to that which arose 
through the increased power of monarchs in the sixteenth 
century. It was against their excessive power that the whole 
fight of traditional liberalism was fought and won. But after 
their power had faded, new powers at least as dangerous 
arose, and the worst of these in our day is the power of the 
police. There is, so far as I can see, only one possible remedy, 
and that is the establishment of a second police force designed 
to prove innocence, not guilt. People often say that it is bet- 
ter that ninety-nine guilty men should escape than that one 
innocent man should be punished. Our institutions are 
founded upon the opposite view. If a man is accused, for 
example, of a murder, all the resources of the State, in the 


shape of policemen and detectives, are employed to prove 
his guilt, whereas it is left to his individual efforts to prove 
his innocence. If he employs detectives, they have to be pri- 
vate detectives paid out of his own pocket or that of his 
friends. Whatever his employment may have been, he will 
have neither time nor opportunity to continue earning money 
by means of it. The lawyers for the prosecution are paid by 
the State. His lawyers have to be paid by him, unless he pleads 
poverty, and then they will probably be less eminent than 
those of the prosecution. All this is quite unjust. It is at least 
as much in the public interest to prove that an innocent man 
has not committed a crime, as it is to prove that a guilty man 
has committed it. A police force designed to prove innocence 
should never attempt to prove guilt except in one kind of 
case: namely, where it is the authorities who are suspected 
of a crime. I think that the creation of such a second police 
force might enable us to preserve some of our traditional 
liberties, but I do not think that any lesser measure will do so. 
One of the worst things resulting from the modern in- 
crease of the powers of the authorities is the suppression of 
truth and the spread of falsehood by means of public agencies. 
Russians are kept as far as possible in ignorance about West- 
ern countries, to the degree that people in Moscow imagine 
theirs to be the only subway in the world. Chinese intellec- 
tuals, since China became Communist, have been subjected to 
a horrible process called "brain-washing." Learned men who 
have acquired all the knowledge to be obtained in their sub- 
ject from America or Western Europe are compelled to ab- 
jure what they have learned and to state that everything 
worth knowing is to be derived from Communist sources. 
They are subjected to such psychological pressure that they 
emerge broken men, able only to repeat, parrot fashion, the 
jejune formulas handed down by their official superiors. In 


Russia and China this sort of thing is enforced by direct pen- 
alties, not only to recalcitrant individuals, but also to their 
families. In other countries the process has not yet gone so 
far. Those who reported truthfully about the evils of Chiang 
Kai-shek's regime during the last years of his rule in China 
were not liquidated, but everything possible was done to pre- 
vent their truthful reports from being believed, and they be- 
came suspects in degrees which varied according to their 
eminence. A man who reports truly to his government about 
what he finds in a foreign country, unless his report agrees 
with official prejudices, not only runs a grave personal risk, 
but knows that his information will be ignored. There is, of 
course, nothing new in this except in degree. In 1899, General 
Butler, who was in command of British forces in South 
Africa, reported that it would require an army of at least two 
hundred thousand to subdue the Boers. For this unpopular 
opinion he was demoted, and was given no credit when the 
opinion turned out to be correct. But, although the evil is not 
new, it is very much greater in extent than it used to be. 
There is no longer, even among those who think themselves 
more or less liberal, a belief that it is a good thing to study all 
sides of a question. The purging of United States libraries in 
Europe and of school libraries in America, is designed to pre- 
vent people from knowing more than one side of a question. 
The Index Expurgatorius has become a recognized part of 
the policy of those who say that they fight for freedom. Ap- 
parently the authorities no longer have sufficient belief in the 
justice of their cause to think that it can survive the ordeal of 
free discussion. Only so long as the other side is unheard are 
they confident of obtaining credence. This shows a sad decay 
in the robustness of our belief in our own institutions. During 
the war, the Nazis did not permit Germans to listen to Brit- 
ish radio, but nobody in England was hindered from listen- 


ing to the German radio because our faith in our own cause 
was unshakable. So long as we prevent Communists from be- 
ing heard, we produce the impression that they must have a 
very strong case. Free speech used to be advocated on the 
ground that free discussion would lead to the victory of the 
better opinion. This belief is being lost under the influence of 
fear. The result is that truth is one thing and "official truth" 
is another. This is the first step on the road to Orwell's "dou- 
ble-talk" and "double-think/ 7 It will be said that the legal ex- 
istence of free speech has been preserved, but its effective ex- 
istence is disastrously curtailed if the more important means 
of publicity are only open to opinions which have the sanc- 
tion of orthodoxy. 

This applies more particularly to education. Even mildly 
liberal opinions expose an educator nowadays in some impor- 
tant countries to the risk of losing his job and being unable to 
find any other. The consequence is that children grow up in 
ignorance of many things that it is vitally important they 
should know, and that bigotry and obscurantism have a per- 
ilous measure of popular support. 

Fear is the source from which all these evils spring, and 
fear, as is apt to happen in a panic, inspires the very actions 
which bring about the disasters that are dreaded. The dan- 
gers are real they are indeed greater than at any previous 
time in human history but all yielding to hysteria increases 
them. It is our clear duty in this difficult time, not only to 
know the dangers, but to view them calmly and rationally in 
spite of knowledge of their magnitude. Orwell's world of 
1984, if we allow it to exist, will not exist for long. It will be 
only the prelude to universal death. 

Why I Am Not a Communist 

IN RELATION to any political doctrine there are two ques- 
tions to be asked: (i) Are its theoretical tenets true? 
(2) Is its practical policy likely to increase human hap- 
piness? For my part, I think the theoretical tenets of Com- 
munism are false, and I think its practical maxims are such as 
to produce an immeasurable increase of human misery. 

The theoretical doctrines of Communism are for the most 
part derived from Marx. My objections to Marx are of two 
sorts: one, that he was muddleheaded; and the other, that his 
thinking was almost entirely inspired by hatred. The doc- 
trine of surplus value, which is supposed to demonstrate the 
exploitation of wage-earners under Capitalism, is arrived at: 

(a) by surreptitiously accepting Malthus' doctrine of pop- 
ulation, which Marx and all his disciples explicitly repudiate; 

(b) by applying Ricardo's theory of value to wages, but 
not to the prices of manufactured articles. He is entirely sat- 
isfied with the result, not because it is in accordance with the, 
facts or because it is logically coherent, but because it is cal- 
culated to rouse fury in wage-earners. Marx's doctrine that all 
historical events have been motivated by class conflicts is a 
rash and untrue extension to world history of certain features 
prominent in England and France a hundred years ago. His 
belief that there is a cosmic force called Dialectical Material- 
ism which governs human history independently of human 
volitions, is mere mythology. His theoretical errors, however, 

* Originally appeared in the Background Book, Why I Opposed Com- 
mimism, published by Phoenix House, Ltd. 



would not have mattered so much but for the fact that, like 
Tertullian and Carlyle, his chief desire was to see his enemies 
punished, and he cared little what happened to his friends in 
the process. 

Marx's doctrine was bad enough, but the developments 
which it underwent under Lenin and Stalin made it much 
worse. Marx had taught that there would be a revolutionary 
transitional period following the victory of the Proletariat in 
a civil war and that during this period the Proletariat, in ac- 
cordance with the usual practice after a civil war, would de- 
prive its vanquished enemies of political power. This period 
was to be that of the dictatorship of the Proletariat. It should 
not be forgotten that in Marx's prophetic vision the victory 
of the Proletariat was to come after it had grown to be the 
vast majority of the population. The dictatorship of the Pro- 
letariat therefore as conceived by Marx was not essentially 
antidemocratic. In the Russia of 1917, however, the Prole- 
tariat was a small percentage of the population, the great ma- 
jority being peasants. It was decreed that the Bolshevik party 
was the class-conscious part of the Proletariat, and that a small 
committee of its leaders was the class-conscious part of the 
Bolshevik party. The dictatorship of the Proletariat thus came 
to be the dictatorship of a small committee, and ultimately of 
one man Stalin. As the sole class-conscious Proletarian, 
Stalin condemned millions of peasants to death by starvation 
and millions of others to forced labor in concentration camps. 
He even went so far as to decree that the laws of heredity are 
henceforth to be different from what they used to be, and 
that the germ plasm is to obey Soviet decrees but not that 
reactionary priest Mendel. I am completely at a loss to under- 
stand how it came about that some people who are both 
humane and intelligent could find something to admire in 
the vast slave camp produced by Stalin. 


I have always disagreed with Marx. My first hostile criti- 
cism of him was published in 1896. But my objections to 
modern Communism go deeper than my objections to Marx. 
It is the abandonment of democracy that I find particularly 
disastrous. A minority resting its power upon the activities of 
a secret police is bound to be cruel, oppressive and obscurant- 
ist. The dangers of irresponsible power came to be generally 
recognized during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, 
but those who have been dazzled by the outward success of 
the Soviet Union have forgotten all that was painfully 
learned during the days of absolute monarchy, and have 
gone back to what was worst in the Middle Ages under the 
curious delusion that they were in the vanguard of progress. 

There are signs that in course of time the Russian regime 
will become more liberal. But, although this is possible, it is 
very far from certain. In the meantime, all those who value 
not only art and science but a sufficiency of daily bread and 
freedom from the fear that a careless word by their children 
to a schoolteacher may condemn them to forced labor in a 
Siberian wilderness, must do what lies in their power to pre- 
serve in their own countries a less servile and more prosperous 
manner of life. 

There are those who, oppressed by the *evils of Commu- 
nism, are led to the conclusion that the only effective way to 
combat these evils is by means of a world war. I think this a 
mistake. At one time such a policy might have been possible, 
but now war has become so terrible and Communism has be- 
come so powerful that no one can tell what would be left after 
a world war, and whatever might be left would probably be 
at least as bad as present-day Communism. This forecast 
does not depend upon which side, if either, is nominally vic- 
torious. It depends only upon the inevitable effects of mass 
destruction by means of hydrogen and cobalt bombs and per- 


haps of ingeniously propagated plagues. The way to combat 
Communism is not war. What is needed in addition to such 
armaments as will deter Communists from attacking the 
West, is a diminution of the grounds for discontent in the 
less prosperous parts of the non-Communist world. In most 
of the countries of Asia, there is abject poverty which the 
West ought to alleviate as far as it lies in its power to do so. 
There is also a great bitterness which was caused by the 
centuries of European insolent domination in Asia. This 
ought to be dealt with by a combination of patient tact with 
dramatic announcements renouncing such relics of white 
domination as survive in Asia. Communism is a doctrine bred 
of poverty, hatred and strife. Its spread can only be arrested 
by diminishing the area of poverty and hatred. 

Man's Peril 

I AM writing on this occasion not as a Briton, not as a 
European, not as a member of a Western democracy, but 
as a human being, a member of the species Man, whose 
continued existence is in doubt. The world is full of conflicts: 
Jews and Arabs; Indians and Pakistanis; white men and Ne- 
groes in Africa; and, overshadowing all minor conflicts, the 
titanic struggle between Communism and anti-Communism. 
Almost everybody who is politically conscious has strong 
feelings about one or more of these issues; but I want you, if 
you can, to set aside such feelings for the moment and con- 
sider yourself only as a member of a biological species which 
has had a remarkable history and whose disappearance none 
of us can desire. I shall try to write no single word which 
should appeal to one group rather than to another. All, 
equally, are in peril, and, if the peril is understood, there is 
hope that they may collectively avert it. We have to learn to 
think in a new way. We have to learn to ask ourselves not 
what steps can be taken to give military victory to what- 
ever group we prefer, for there no longer are such steps. The 
question we have to ask ourselves is: What steps can be taken 
to prevent a military contest of which the issue must be dis- 
astrous to all sides? 

The general public, and even many men in positions of 
authority, have not realized what would be involved in a 
war with hydrogen bombs. The general public still thinks in 
terms of the obliteration of cities. It is understood that the 
new bombs are more powerful than the old and that, while 



one atomic bomb could obliterate Hiroshima, one hydrogen 
bomb could obliterate the largest cities such as London, New 
York, and Moscow. No doubt in a hydrogen-bomb war 
great cities would be obliterated. But this is one of the minor 
disasters that would have to be faced. If everybody in London, 
New York, and Moscow were exterminated, the world might, 
in the course of a few centuries, recover from the blow. But 
we now know, especially since the Bikini test, that hydrogen 
bombs can gradually spread destruction over a much wider 
area than had been supposed. It is stated on very good au- 
thority that a bomb can now be manufactured which will be 
25,000 times as powerful as that which destroyed Hiroshima. 
Such a bomb, if exploded near the ground or underwater, 
sends radioactive particles into the upper air. They sink 
gradually and reach the surface of the earth in the form of a 
deadly dust or rain. It was this dust which infected the Jap- 
anese fishermen and their catch of fish although they were 
outside what American experts believed to be the danger zone. 
No one knows how widely such lethal radioactive particles 
might be diffused, but the best authorities are unanimous in 
saying that a war with hydrogen bombs is quite likely to put 
an end to the human race. It is feared that if many hydrogen 
bombs are used there will be universal death sudden only for 
a fortunate minority, but for the majority a slow torture of 
disease and disintegration. 

I will give a few instances out of many. Sir John Slessor, 
who can speak with unrivaled authority from his experiences 
of air warfare, has said: "A world war in this day and age 
would be general suicide"; and has gone on to state: "It never 
has and never will make any sense trying to abolish any par- 
ticular weapon of war. What we have got to abolish is wctr" 
Lord Adrian, who is the leading English authority on nerve 
physiology, recently emphasized the same point in his ad- 


dress as president of the British Association. He said: "We 
must face the possibility that repeated atomic explosions will 
lead to a degree of general radioactivity which no one can 
tolerate or escape"; and he added: "Unless we are ready to 
give up some of our old loyalties, we may be forced into a 
fight which might end the human race." Air Chief Marshal 
Sir Philip Joubert says: "With the advent of the hydrogen 
bomb, it would appear that the human race has arrived at a 
point where it must abandon war as a continuation of policy 
or accept the possibility of total destruction." I could prolong 
such quotations indefinitely. 

Many warnings have been uttered by eminent men of 
science and by authorities in military strategy. None of them 
will say that the worst results are certain. What they do say 
is that these results are possible and no one can be sure that 
they will not be realized. I have not found that the views of 
experts on this question depend in any degree upon their pol- 
itics or prejudices. They depend only, so far as my researches 
have revealed, upon the extent of the particular expert's 
knowledge. 1 have found that the men who know most are 
most gloomy. 

Stark, Inescapable Problem 

Here, then, is the problem which I present to you, stark 
and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the 
human race; or shall mankind renounce war? People will not 
face this alternative because it is so difficult to abolish war. 
The abolition of war will demand distasteful limitations of 
national sovereignty. But what perhaps impedes understand- 
ing of the situation more than anything else is that the term 
"mankind" feels vague and abstract. People scarcely realize 
in imagination that the danger is to themselves and their chil- 
dren and their grandchildren, and not only to a dimly ap~ 


prehended humanity. And so they hope that perhaps war may 
be allowed to continue provided modern weapons are pro- 
hibited. I am afraid this hope is illusory. Whatever agree- 
ments not to use hydrogen bombs had been reached in time 
of peace, they would no longer be considered binding in time 
of war, and both sides would set to work to manufacture 
hydrogen bombs as soon as war broke out, for if one side 
manufactured the bombs and the other did not, the side that 
manufactured them would inevitably be victorious. 

On both sides of the Iron Curtain there are political ob- 
stacles to emphasis on the destructive character of future war, 
If either side were to announce that it would on no account 
resort to war, it would be diplomatically at the mercy of the 
other side. Each side, for the sake of self-preservation, must 
continue to say that there are provocations that it will not 
endure. Each side may long for an accommodation, but neither 
side dare express this longing convincingly. The position is 
analogous to that of duelists in former times. No doubt it 
frequently happened that each of the duelists feared death and 
desired an accommodation, but neither could say so, since, if 
he did, he would be thought a coward. The only hope in such 
cases was intervention by friends of both parties suggesting 
an accommodation to which both could agree at the same 
moment. This is an exact analogy to the present position of 
the protagonists on either side of the Iron Curtain. If an 
agreement making war improbable is to be reached, it will 
have to be by the friendly offices of neutrals, who can speak 
of the disastrousness of war without being accused of advo- 
cating a policy of "appeasement." The neutrals have every 
right, even from the narrowest consideration of self-interest, 
to do whatever lies in their power to prevent the outbreak of 
a world war, for if such a war does break out, it is highly 
probable that all the inhabitants of neutral countries, along 


with the rest of mankind, will perish. If I were in control of a 
neutral government, I should certainly consider it my para- 
mount duty to see to it that my country would continue to 
have inhabitants, and the only way by which I could make 
this probable would be to promote some kind of accommoda- 
tion between the powers on opposite sides of the Iron Cur- 

I, personally, am of course not neutral in my feeling and I 
should not wish to see the danger of war averted by an ab- 
ject submission of the West. But, as a human being, I have to 
remember that, if the issues between East and West are to be 
decided in any manner that can give any possible satisfaction 
to anybody, whether Communist or anti-Communist, whether 
Asian or European or American, whether white or black, 
then these issues must not be decided by war. I should 
wish this to be understood on both sides of the Iron Curtain. 
It is emphatically not enough to have it understood on one 
side only. I think the neutrals, since they are not caught in 
our tragic dilemma, can, if they will, bring about this realiza- 
tion on both sides. I should like to see one or more neutral 
powers appoint a commission of experts, who should all be 
neutrals, to draw up a report on the destructive effects to be 
expected in a war with hydrogen bombs, not only among the 
belligerents but also among neutrals. I should wish this report 
presented to the governments of all the Great Powers with 
an invitation to express their agreement or disagreement 
with its findings. I think it possible that in this way all the 
Great Powers could be led to agree that a world war can no 
longer serve the purposes of any of them, since it is likely to 
exterminate friend and foe equally and neutrals likewise. 

As geological time is reckoned, Man has so far existed only 
for a very short period 1,000,000 years at the most. What 
he has achieved, especially during the last 6,000 years, is 


something utterly new in the history of the Cosmos, so far at 
least as we are acquainted with it. For countless ages the sun 
rose and set, the moon waxed and waned, the stars shone in the 
night, but it was only with the coming of Man that these 
things were understood. In the great world of astronomy and 
in the little world of the atom, Man has unveiled secrets which 
might have been thought undiscoverable. In art and literature 
and religion, some men have shown a sublimity of feeling 
which makes the species worth preserving. Is all this to end in 
trivial horror because so few are able to think of Man rather 
than of this or that group of men? Is our race so destitute of 
wisdom, so incapable of impartial love, so blind even to the 
simplest dictates of self-preservation, that the last proof of 
its silly cleverness is to be the extermination of all life on our 
planet? for it will be not only men who will perish, but 
also the animals, whom no one can accuse of Communism or 

I cannot believe that this is to be the end. I would have 
men forget their quarrels for a moment and reflect that, if 
they will allow themselves to survive, there is every reason to 
expect the triumphs of the future to exceed immeasurably 
the triumphs of the past. There lies before us, if we choose, 
continual progress in happiness, knowledge, and wisdom. 
Shall we, instead, choose death, because we cannot forget 
our quarrels? I appeal, as a human being to human beings: 
remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do 
so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you cannot, noth- 
ing lies before you but universal death* 

Steps toward Peace 

A Speech by Benrand Russell 

Delivered in His Absence at the 

World Asse?nbly -for Peace, Helsinki 

1 SHOULD like to convey to this Assembly my regret that 
I cannot be present, and my hopes for a fruitful 

Mankind is faced with an alternative which has never be- 
fore arisen in human history: either war must be renounced 
or we must expect the annihilation of the human race. Many 
warnings have been uttered by eminent men of science and 
by authorities in military strategy. None of them will say 
that the worst results are certain. 

What I think may be taken as certain, is that already there 
is no possibility of victory for either side as victory has been 
hitherto understood, and if scientific warfare continues unre- 
stricted the next war would pretty certainly leave no survi- 
vors. It follows that the only possibilities before mankind are: 
peace by agreement or the peace of universal death. 

The series of steps which I am suggesting will help us, I 
believe, to reach the happier alternative. There are, no doubt, 
other ways of attaining the same goal, but it is important if 
apathetic despair is not to paralyze our activities to have in 
mind at least one definite method of arriving at secure peace. 

Before considering these steps, I should like to comment 
on a point of view advanced, as I think mistakenly, by genuine 
friends of peace who say that we need an agreement between 
the Powers never to use nuclear weapons. 1 believe the at- 



tempt to secure such an agreement to be a blind alley for two 
reasons. One of these is that such weapons can now be man- 
ufactured with a degree of secrecy that defies inspection. It 
follows that, even if an agreement prohibiting such weapons 
had been concluded, each side would think that the other was 
secretly making them and mutual suspicion would make re- 
lations even more strained than they are now. 

The other argument is that, even if each side refrained 
from manufacturing such weapons while nominal peace 
lasted, neither side would feel bound by the agreement if war 
had actually broken out, and each side could manufacture 
many H-bombs after the fighting had begun. 

There are many people who flatter themselves that in a 
war H-bombs would not actually be employed. They point 
to the fact that gas was not employed in the Second World 
War. I am afraid that this is a complete delusion. Gas was not 
employed because it was found to be indecisive and gas masks 
offered protection. The H-bomb, on the contrary, is a de- 
cisive weapon against which, so far, no defense has been dis- 
covered. If one side used the bomb and the other did not, the 
one that used it would probably reduce the other to impo- 
tence by the employment of quite a small number of bombs, 
such as, with any luck, would not cause much damage to the 
side that employed them; for the more terrible evils that arc 
to be feared depend on the explosion of a large number of 
bombs. I think, therefore, that a war in which only one side 
employs H-bombs might end in something deserving to be 
called victory for that side. I do not think and in this I am 
in agreement with all military authorities that there is the 
slightest chance of H-bombs not being used in a world war. 
It follows that we must prevent large-scale wars or perish. 
To make the governments of the world admit this is a neces- 
sary step on the road to peace. In short, the abolition of the 


H-bomb, which is a thing that we must all desire, can only 
come profitably after both sides have come together in a sin- 
cere attempt to put an end to the hostile relations between 
the two blocs. How can this be obtained? 

Before any universal contracts and measures become pos- 
sible two things must be achieved: first, all powerful states 
must realize that their aims, whatever they may be, cannot 
be achieved by war; second, as a consequence of the univer- 
sality of this realization, the suspicion on either side that the 
other is preparing war must be allayed. Here are some sug- 
gestions for your consideration on the steps that can be 
taken to reach these two objects. 

The first step should be a statement by a small number of 
men of the highest scientific eminence as to the effect to be 
expected from a nuclear war. 

This statement should not suggest, however faintly, any 
bias in favor of either side. It is important that scientific au- 
thorities should tell us in plain language what we ought to 
expect in various ways, giving us definite information when- 
ever possible, and the most likely hypothesis where conclu- 
sive evidence as yet is lacking. Most of the facts can already 
be ascertained, in so far as existing knowledge makes this pos- 
sible, by those who are willing to take a great deal of trouble 
in collecting information. But what is needed is that the 
knowledge should be as simply stated as possible, and should 
be easily accessible and widely publicized, and that there 
should be in existence an authoritative statement to which 
those engaged in spreading the knowledge could appeal. 

This statement would undoubtedly make clear that a nu- 
clear war would not bring victory to either side and would 
not create the sort of world desired by Communists or the 
sort of world desired by their opponents or the sort of world 
that uncommitted nations desire. 


Scientists throughout the world should be invited to sub- 
scribe to the technical statement and I should hope, as a fur- 
ther step, that this report would form a basis for action by 
one or more uncommitted governments. These governments 
could present the report, or, if they preferred it, a report 
drawn up by their own scientific specialists, to all the power- 
ful governments of the world, and invite them to express their 
opinions upon it. The report should have such a weight of 
scientific authority behind it that it would be scarcely pos- 
sible for any government to combat its findings. The govern- 
ments on either side of the Iron Curtain could, without loss 
of face, simultaneously admit to uncommitted governments 
that war can no longer serve as a continuation of policy. 
Among neutrals, India is in an especially favorable position 
because of friendly relations with both groups as well as ex- 
perience of successful mediation in Korea and Indochina. I 
should like to see the scientific report presented by the Indian 
Government to all the Great Powers with an invitation to ex- 
press their opinion upon it. I should hope that all might be 
brought in this way to acknowledge that they have nothing 
to gain from a nuclear war. 

Meanwhile a certain readjustment of ideas is necessary by 
those who have hitherto been vehement partisans of either 
Communism or anti-Communism. They must realize that no 
useful purpose is served by bitter abuse of the opposite party 
or by emphasis upon its past sins or by suspicions of its mo- 
tives. They need not abandon their opinions as to which sys- 
tem would be better, any more than they need abandon their 
preferences in party politics at home. What ^all must do is to 
acknowledge that the propagation of the view which they 
prefer is to be conducted by persuasion, not by force. 

Let us now assume that the Great Powers, by the methods 
which have been suggested, have been induced to admit that 


none of them could secure their aims by war. This is the most 
difficult step. Let us now consider what are the steps that 
could be taken after this initial step has been taken. 

The first step, which should be taken at once, would be 
to secure a temporary cessation of conflict, either hot or 
cold, while more permanent measures were devised. Until 
then this temporary armistice would have to be on the basis 
of the status quo since there is no other basis that would not 
involve difficult negotiations. Such negotiations should fol- 
low in due course; if they are to be fruitful they must not be 
conducted in the atmosphere of hostility and suspicion which 
exists at present. During this period, when hatred and fear 
are abating, there should be a lessening of journalistic invec- 
tive, and even well-merited criticisms of either side by the 
other should be muted. There should be encouragement to 
mutual trade and to mutual visits by deputations, especially 
the cultural and educational sort. All this should be by way of 
preparing the ground for a world conference and enabling 
such a conference to be more than a ruthless contest for 

When a comparatively friendly atmosphere has been gen- 
erated by these methods, a world conference should meet 
for the purpose of creating ways other than war by which 
disagreements between states should be settled. This is a stu- 
pendous task, not only through its vastness and intricacy, but 
also through the very real conflicts of interests that may 
arise. It cannot hope to succeed unless opinion has been ade- 
quately prepared. Delegates to the conference will have to 
meet with two firm convictions in the minds of every one of 
them: first, the conviction that war means total disaster; and 
second, the conviction that the settlement of a dispute by 
agreement is more advantageous to the disputants than the 
continuation of the dispute, even if the settlement is not 


wholly satisfactory to either party. If the conference is im- 
bued with this spirit it can proceed with some hope of suc- 
cess to tackle the immense problems that will confront it. 

The first of the problems to be tackled should be the dim- 
inution of national armaments. So long as these remain at 
their present level, it will be obvious that the renouncement 
of war is not sincere. 

There should be restoration of the freedoms that existed 
before 1914, especially freedom of travel and freedom in the 
circulation of books and newspapers and the removal of ob- 
stacles to the free dissemination of ideas across national 
boundaries. These various restorations of former freedoms 
are necessary steps toward the creation of an understanding 
that mankind forms one family and that governmental divi- 
sions, when they become as harsh as they are at present, are 
difficult obstacles in the way of peace. 

If these tasks were achieved, the conference would have 
to advance to the creation of a World Authority, already 
twice attempted, first by the League of Nations and then by 
the UN. I do not intend to go into this problem here, beyond 
saying that unless it is solved no other measures will have per- 
manent value. 

Ever since 1914, the world has been subject to continually 
deepening terror. Immense numbers of men, women and 
children have perished, and of the survivors a very large pro- 
portion have experienced the imminent fear of death. When 
people in the West think of the Russians and Chinese, and 
when the Russians and Chinese think of the people in the 
West, they think of them chiefly as a source of destruction 
and disaster, not as ordinary human beings with the ordinary 
human capacity for joy and sorrow. More and more it has 
come to seem as if frivolity offers the only escape from de- 
spair. The escape that can be secured by sober hope and con- 


structive statesmanship has come to seem unobtainable. But 
apathetic hopelessness is not the only state of mind that is ra- 
tional in the world in which we find ourselves. Almost every 
single person throughout the world would be happier and 
more prosperous if East and West gave up their quarrel. No- 
body need be asked to renounce anything, unless it be the 
dream of world empire, which has now become far more 
impossible than the most wildly optimistic Utopia. We have, 
as never before, the means of possessing an abundance of the 
necessities and comforts that are needed to make life agree- 
able. Russia and China, if peace were secured, could devote 
to the production of consumer goods all the energies now 
devoted to rearmament. The immense scientific skill which 
has gone into the production of nuclear weapons could make 
deserts fruitful and cause rain to fall in the Sahara and Gobi 
deserts. With the removal of fear, new energies would spring 
up, the human spirit would soar and become freshly creative, 
and the old dark terrors that lurk in the depths of men's 
minds would melt away. 

In a war using the H-bomb there can be no victor. We can 
live together or die together. I am firmly persuaded that if 
those of us who realize this devote ourselves with sufficient 
energy to the task, we can make the world realize it. Com- 
munist and anti-Communist alike prefer life to death, and if 
the issue is clearly presented to them, they will choose the 
measures which are necessary for preserving life. This is a 
strenuous hope, for it demands on the part of those of us who 
see the issue in all its jagged outline the expenditure of an 
immense energy in persuading, with always the difficult re- 
alization that the time is short, and with always the tempta- 
tion to hysteria which comes from contemplating the possi- 
ble abyss. But although the hope is arduous, it should be 
vivid. It should be held firmly through whatever discourage- 


merits. It should inspire the lives, first perhaps of compara- 
tively few, but gradually of increasing numbers, until with 
a great shout of joy men come together to celebrate the end 
of organized killing and the inauguration of a happier era 
than any that has ever fallen to the lot of man. 


Prize for Literature in 1950. He is the grandson of Lord John 
Russell, who was twice Prime Minister and British Foreign 
Secretary during the Civil War. Before going to Cambridge 
he was educated at home by governesses and tutors, acquiring 
a thorough knowledge of German and French; and it has 
been said that his "admirable and lucid English style may be 
attributed to the fact that he did not undergo a classical edu- 
cation at a public school." Certainly, this style is perceptible 
in the many books that have flowed from his pen during half 
a century books that have shown him to be the most pro- 
found of mathematicians, the most brilliant of philosophers, 
and the most lucid of popularizers. His most recent major 
works are A History of Western Philosophy, published in 
1945; Hitman Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits, published in 
1948; Authority and the Individual, published in 1949; Un- 
popular Essays, that grossly mistitled book, published in 1951; 
New Hopes for a Changing World, published in 1952; The 
Impact of Science on Society, published in 1953; and Human 
Society in Ethics and Politics, published in 1955. Lord Russell 
is also the author of two recent books of short stonedSatan 
in the Suburbs, published in 1953, and Nightmares of Eminent 
Persons, published in 1955.